No. Kind of.
The main answer is, “it’s better to be safe than sorry,” and that’s the truth. If you find yourself about to log on to a public wi-fi and access company data of any kind ask yourself, “does this have to be done right this moment?” If the answer is no, then don’t do it, wait until you’re on a secure network and mitigate the risk. If the answer is yes, there are a few more steps to hopefully safeguard your company data. In no order of importance:
- Try using cellular data. If it’s a Zoom call, using their mobile app is much safer than using the airport wi-fi. If you simply must use your computer for your task, you should seriously consider adding a hotspot to your cellular plan.
- Use a browser that has built-in encryption.
What about a VPN?
Most people would assume that a VPN is a safe method to access public networks. They aren’t entirely wrong, but they’re not completely right either. VPN companies have done a fantastic job marketing the idea that a VPN is the end all be all for secure networks but just like literally everything else on earth, not all things are created equal. I’m willing to bet you could take a walk down any high school hallway and find a few kids using a VPN as a workaround to access Twitter or TikTok on the school’s wi-fi network during their history teachers boring PowerPoint, illustrating his controversial stance on which constitutional amendment is least important. So if you're going to go with a VPN, be certain it can hold up against even a high school student's hacking ability.
At the end of the day, accessing company data on a public network should be done with extreme caution, if done at all. It would be like standing on a soapbox in Times Square, shouting out your social security number, your mother’s maiden name, and your first pet’s name. Sure, there’s a real possibility no one will steal your identity if you did it just this one time; but that guy in the black hoodie and sunglasses leaning up against the nearest lamppost is grinning like the butchers' dog, don’t make it easier for him and don't make it easy for cybercriminals either.