Is There Any Reason to Trust Municipal Wireless Networks?
Designed to provide free Wi-Fi for an entire city, Municipal Wireless Networks span further than an ordinary public hotspot provided by a local business. These networks are intended to help a wide variety of people stay connected. Especially if they otherwise do not have the means to do so. Roughly 80 cities in the United States already have citywide Wi-Fi programs in place.
Advocates for Municipal Wireless Networks cite the need for available internet access for all citizens. However, there are many who worry about the lax security that comes with any public Wi-Fi. Unreliability among hotspots offered at local stores is common knowledge at this point. The lack of security leaves users susceptible. Most hackers prefer working remotely, which does somewhat limit the risk. But users have also learned which sites to use and not use when on public networks.
Municipal Wireless Networks allow access citywide, though. The reach afforded to a hacker here is sprawling. Is this something that could put you at risk?
Precautions in Place for Municipal Wireless Networks
Infosec institutions warn users of the fragile nature of Municipal Wireless Networks. They also give a list measures that need to come standard with each of them. Firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, intrusion detection systems, all of these are necessities.
For newer citywide wireless networks, like the kiosks in New York City, a private option is being made available. The private network is more secure but has requirements that are mostly only available to the latest iPhones and iPads. New York City plans for these kiosks to be as widespread as payphones once were, with more than 7,500 across all 5 boroughs. Based on the available security options, that could do more harm than good.
Municipal Wireless Networks are well-intentioned services that come with a great risk. If your city has one, proceed with caution and only use them for casual browsing.