How to Setup a Secure Wi-Fi Network Anywhere

F-Secure Life, Security & Privacy

People want fast, easy internet access, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. And that can be a bit of challenge when organizing events like music festivals, camps and other outdoor activities. These networks have to be put together quickly, and sometimes without having access to on-site infrastructure. And then there’s security, which is rarely done well in public Wi-Fi networks.

These are challenges facing the organizers of Säihke 2017 – a camp organized by The Guides and Scouts District of Uusimaa. The camp is basically a popup village that hosts a number of activities for kids. And this year, F-Secure is contributing by helping to resource and build a secure “popup” network for the camp’s staff and guests.

“I’m basically the chief of telecoms for the camp,” says F-Secure Labs Lead Researcher Jarno Niemelä. “So I’m building the network that camp personnel will use for administrative tasks like record keeping and payment processing, but also for stuff that guests want to do, like use their social media accounts. All in all, we need provide internet access for about 2500 people, which is a bit of challenge when you’re in the middle of a forest.”

So what does a secure popup network look like? Well, Jarno’s starting by designing an IT environment that’s easy to setup and access, but also secure.

Step 1: Design the network to be both practical and secure

Jarno’s popup network will use three main components to ensure support for a wide range of devices – everything from traditional desktops to tablets and internet of things devices. He’ll be using an industrial-grade Wi-Fi antennae, several Wi-Fi modems, and several F-Secure SENSE devices.

The Wi-Fi antennae will connect the camp’s network to the internet. The Wi-Fi modem (Jarno’s using several to cover the entire site) will take the signal provided via the antennae and feed it directly into SENSE, which will ensure that internet traffic routed to users is free of malware and other online threats. Users will connect to the various access points setup around the camp.

Step 2: Secure your endpoints

F-Secure is providing several laptops for the camp’s administrative office to use. These laptops will be used for things like scheduling, record keeping, communication, and helping process financial transactions. SENSE will protect these laptops, as well as other things staff use (like printers and payment terminals). Jarno will also use F-Secure’s award-winning Protection Service for Business to help him administer the network.

“A security incident at an event for kids, no matter how small it might be, would be a disaster, so the camp is counting on me to take reasonable precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen. Protection Service for Business will give me a reasonable degree of visibility into what devices camp staff are using, what software they’re running, whether everything is updated and working properly, and if our endpoints detect anything suspicious,” explains Jarno. “And it’s cloud-based, making it easy for me to deploy and use and barely noticeable to the camp’s staff.”

Step 3: Secure everyone else’s endpoints

Jarno’s also planning to protect the camp’s guests and visitors. Besides the network security provided by SENSE, F-Secure is providing on-site promotional codes so visitors will be able to install F-Secure Freedome and the premium edition of F-Secure KEY for free. Freedome is F-Secure’s popular VPN that encrypts internet traffic to prevent it from being intercepted while it’s in transit. F-Secure KEY is a password manager that helps users create and store passwords for their various online accounts.

According to Jarno, both of these address real security shortcomings that affect many users (specifically, the visibility of internet traffic exchanged over public Wi-Fi networks, and the challenges of choosing strong, unique passwords to use for online accounts).

“In my experience, many people overlook the value of VPNs and password managers. Both provide security measures that help people stay in control of their data. I think many people understand they need endpoint protection to protect them from malware, but not enough people understand the value their data has in today’s world. So if I can help our guest do more to secure their data, I’m more than happy to do it.”

Combining steps like these pack in enough security benefits to ensure that it would take no small effort to compromise the camp. And according to Jarno, these basic steps would be useful to anyone looking into hosting an event this summer well.

“I don’t think many events really think about whether their IT environment is really safe. But participants won’t have a good time if they leave an event with some kind of malware infection, or if they find out their passwords were stolen. I think it’d be good for anyone planning events to remember that,” says Jarno.

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