Offering a Wi-Fi hotspot is an amenity that commercial tenants and multifamily residents appreciate, but property owners and managers should be aware that allowing access to an unsecured Wi-Fi that ties into a management office network creates significant security risk and greatly increases exposure to hacking and data theft. Simply put, do not do it.
At a minimum, property operators should set up a guest network and encrypt their existing network with Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2). These security protocols are designed to protect wireless computer networks. For additional security, turn off the “SSID broadcast” on the private Wi-Fi network. That way, when visitors search for Wi-Fi access, the network will not show up on their “available networks” screen.
As a best practice, set up a separate wireless access point for dedicated tenant or resident use. This is the most secure option and will keep private business information safe from anyone using the public Wi-Fi hotspot.
For either scenario, it is always a good idea to retain local support to help set up networks and test their security features. This is affordable – but a small price to pay to avoid potential data theft. Additionally, owners and managers providing Wi-Fi on the same network that powers their property management system should know how to reboot their system so they can be back up and running quickly in the event of a blackout or glitch.
Many property management and accounting software providers today offer their systems via secure, cloud-based platforms. This inherently protects enterprise data from in-house security breaches by moving it off the client’s network. Additionally, cloud system users have a separate log-in, so “getting to” the data requires access to both the in-house and provider networks – providing two layers of protection.
The best enterprise system providers serve in a consultative role for their clients. We are around this stuff every day and are more than willing to provide guidance on issues like data security. While headlines about major data breaches may prompt a property owner or manager to pause and think about their own network security, these issues are top of mind for us every day.