Keeping your wireless devices secure

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In a recent survey of our student users, 3 out of 4 told us that WiFi was the most important type of Internet connection to them.*

This is perhaps unsurprising given the number of WiFi enabled devices they own, from laptops to smartphones, wireless printers, wireless speakers (like Sonos), and media streaming devices (like Chromecast or Apple TV).

Our users rely on access to a fast and reliable WiFi network, but that network must also be 100% secure.

Wireless networks present some challenges when it comes to security. In a typical home setting, you plug in your wireless router and set up your own wireless network and password. You use that password to connect your devices to the wireless network so they can access the Internet and data can be sent between them. In other words, your smartphone can ‘discover’ your Sonos speaker or Chromecast over the wireless network and send instructions to it.

Within a multi tenant building (like purpose built student accommodation or build-to-rent residential apartments) where there is a managed Internet service (as delivered by providers like ASK4 or Cablecom) the wireless network is a shared network, providing WiFi access for every tenant in the building. There are many reasons why a managed Internet service is the best solution for multi tenant buildings, but it poses one significant wireless security issue:

If everyone is connecting their devices to the same shared wireless network, they will all be ‘discoverable’ on that network to everyone in the building.

That means neighbouring tenants could see and connect to each other's devices over WiFi, presenting obvious privacy and security risks. It is the responsibility of the Internet Service Provider to remove these risks.

Security Solution Part 1

The first solution to this problem is port protection. This means configuring the network so that it isolates devices, allowing them to connect to the Internet but not with each other. This makes them ‘undiscoverable’ on the wireless network.

For a long time this solution has been sufficient. However, the limitation this imposes means that the very devices current and future students increasingly regard as essential, and that rely on local wireless connectivity, simply won’t work. As our Connected Living research amongst 3,000 European teens tells us, that is not acceptable – the students of 2020 expect their wireless devices to work seamlessly, and they attach substantial importance to it.

Port protection should absolutely be maintained in this setting. We cannot expect individual users to be aware of or attempt to manage the risk themselves (e.g. adjusting device settings where possible, or disconnecting devices from the WiFi when not in use). However, port protection alone is not the complete solution.

Security Solution Part 2

To meet the need for device-to-device connectivity in multi-tenant buildings, ASK4 created 4Network.  Winner of Innovation of the Year, 4Network provides users of a managed Internet service with their own private wireless networks. This means users can connect their wireless-enabled devices together in a private and secure way via a building’s shared infrastructure - just like they can at home.

4Network forms a unique part of ASK4’s network infrastructure and has been developed by our technical team over a number of years in direct response to our users' changing connectivity demands and the influx of WiFi connected devices, entertainment systems and infrastructure now available to tenants and accommodation operators.

With 4Network, a user's personal wireless network works wherever they are in the building (it is not restricted to their room or the reach of one ‘router’), and can include any wired or wireless enabled device.

The Complete Solution

4Network enables ASK4 to provide the best possible connectivity platform for building operators and tenants, delivering a fast, managed, reliable broadband and WiFi service for a whole building, plus private and secure personal wireless networks for individual residents.

As technology evolves, so too do users’ behaviour and expectations. At ASK4 we work every day to understand our users’ needs and to drive technical and service innovation to deliver for our customers. If you have a purpose built student accommodation or build-to-rent project in planning or already occupied, please get in touch, we would love to talk to you about it.

*ASK4 user survey data, October 2017

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ASK4 Limited