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Key inserted into laptop screen

Key inserted into laptop screen

Are Your Attendees in Danger of Being Hacked?

I just ran across an article on TechConnect from IDG about the dangerous cost of “free” Wi-Fi, which outlines how security company Avast set up some free Wi-Fi hotspots at the Republican National Convention held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland last month. The idea was to see how many people would log onto the bogus networks. Turns out some 1,200 people did, many exposing their identities. (Thanks for the pointer, @BrandtKrueger!)

So I thought this would be a good time to remind people that it’s all too easy for pretty much anyone to turn a laptop into a hotspot, and more than a few of those people could do so for nefarious reasons. And large events, from political conventions to, say, your next conference, are ripe for the hacking. Once you log in, they can glom onto all kinds of information about you, gleaned from your apps, email, and hard drive. And then sell it to the highest bidder.

My colleague Alison Hall and I have both had the privilege of going to a session by cyber security expert Michael Robinson, who scared the bejesus out of both of us when he outlined just how easy this is to do. He also provided some very useful tips about how to protect your meeting from cyber threats. Well worth a read, or a refresher if you haven't thought about this lately.

As for personal cyber safety, the TechConnect article suggests buying your own hotspot or turning your phone into a personal hotspot so you don’t have to take any risks. If you want to use public Wi-Fi, use one that doesn’t require a login. And don’t use the connection for anything that you want to keep secure, like banking.

And, the article adds, don’t pick up and plug in stray thumb drives, because hackers may have left them scattered around in hopes you would be obliging and infect your device by slotting one in. I hadn't heard that one before, but with all the thumb drives being given away by exhibitors at trade shows, this would be another vulnerability at shows in particular.

Yikes, you can’t be too careful out there these days, can you?

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