How to share a Wi-Fi connection securely

Wi-Fi router with a person holding a cellphone

From convenience to reduced cost, there are numerous benefits of wireless networking. However, with cyber fraud on the rise, sharing your Wi-Fi connection can be risky. A recent survey by Kaspersky Lab found that “25% of the world’s Wi-Fi networks have no encryption or password protection of any kind", and that business travelers are more likely to be robbed of their data than their money.

This leaves open the question of to what extent Wi-Fi sharing is admissible for professionals, as the greater the number of devices you have on your network, the greater the chances of potential security breaches and data theft.

One good way to share the internet while keeping your network's security password secret is by enabling a guest Wi-Fi network. A guest network uses a different Wi-Fi network name and password from the wireless network you have access to.

A separate guest network means your company’s data and devices, such as servers and shared files, are far less susceptible to manipulation and hijacking. A bifurcated network also allows you to control access to critical company resources. For example, any users connected to the guest Wi-Fi can’t access resources you share on your network - unless you configure it otherwise.

From a technical standpoint, this security level is made possible by having two access points to the same router. Furthermore, an encryption algorithm ensures the confidentiality of data transmitted over the network, keeping your data secure at all times.

Now that you know the security benefits of guest networks, let's see how to set up one.

How to enable guest Wi-Fi at work

Guest wireless networks are predominantly configured and taken care of by network administrators. However, knowing the procedure can come in handy in situations where you are working remotely.

Use the following steps to set up a guest wireless network for vendors, acquaintances, neighbors, and others:

  1. Enter your router’s IP address in your browser’s URL bar (this will trigger a login prompt). Refer to your router’s user manual for IP address, admin username, and password.
  2. Enter the admin username and password to sign in.
  3. Enable “Allow guest access” in the “Wi-Fi” section in the router settings.
  4. Configure the guest network by adding a network name and password. For dual-band routers with 2.4 and 5 GHz bandwidth options, you’ll need to set a separate network name and passphrase for each band. Some router’s control panels identify the network name as the service set identifier (SSID).
  5. Choose an encryption system from available options so the information transmitted over Wi-Fi can’t be intercepted (WPA2 is the preferred encryption for Wi-Fi routers)
  6. Finally, disable “Allow access” to local network resources and settings.
  7. Share the configured Wi-Fi network’s name and passcode to grant access to your guest network.

As an added security measure, update your router’s firmware of your home router periodically. This will help thwart hackable vulnerabilities, keeping your network secure and impenetrable.

How to share mobile Wi-Fi when out and about

For on-the-go professionals, a slow internet connection can crush productivity. It’s also plain frustrating to pay a hefty price for poor internet connection in hotel rooms and airport lounges.

Luckily, most smartphones today have a built-in feature that allows you to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. This hotspot is essentially your private internet connection that uses your cellular signal. Though you’re using your cellular connection, you can still make and receive calls and respond to texts while using the hotspot.

Some cellular plans offer “unlimited” Wi-Fi hotspot data, but the “unlimited” part applies to your internet access, not the speed. These carriers will generally give you 20-100GB per month of high-speed data at approximately 5-12Gbps downstream and 2-5Gbps upstream. Once you reach the data cap, your carrier may deprioritize your connection, leading to significantly slower hotspot speeds.

If you’re wondering how far your data will go, a high-quality Zoom group call uses 81 MB per hour, while general web browsing and email use just 7GB per month, on average. In either scenario, there are no extra charges unless you reach your data plan’s cap. However, keep in mind that even unlimited data plans have limits.

Closing unwanted background apps and disabling the auto-download feature can significantly improve mobile data speeds. Turn off the hotspot when not in use to reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

Here’s how to enable the Wi-Fi hotspot feature on the two most common OS platforms, iPhone and Android.

Setting up hotspot on iOS

  1. Navigate to your smartphone’s settings
  2. Tap the “Personal Hotspot” option
  3. Toggle “Allow Others to Join” on

If it's your first time using the Wi-Fi hotspot feature, a pop will appear with the following information: network’s name and password. By default, the network name is the same as the name of your device. Rename the network, if necessary, and type in a new Wi-Fi password. Select WPA2 security protocol that uses AES-based encryption for added security.

Setting up hotspot on Android

  1. Open “Settings”
  2. Go to “Network & Internet” > “Hotspot & tethering” > “Wi-Fi hotspot”
  3. Toggle “Wi-Fi hotspot” to on

Similar to the iPhone, Android mobile phones’ hotspot name is the same as the device name. Set a strong password followed by encryption type. Optionally, change the hotspot name if needed.

2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz: Which frequency should you use?

Choosing between 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies is a tradeoff between speed and range.

The 5GHz wireless frequency band provides faster data rates, but the signal travels a shorter distance. A 2.4GHz signal travels farther, but its data speeds are slower.

The lower latency of 5GHz frequency band makes it suitable for high-bandwidth activities such as video conferencing and gaming. For devices positioned further from the router, like a smartphone or a smartwatch, a 2.4GHz network’s greater range fits the bill.

One crucial advantage 2.4GHz has over the newer 5GHz band is it penetrates solid objects more easily. Since workstations and residential areas are mostly not devoid of objects, use 5GHz in tandem with 2.4GHz to get the best of both worlds.

How to boost Wi-Fi signal strength

Wi-Fi routers have far more limited transmitting power than cell towers or base stations. Plus, obstacles, like a wall or a piece of metal, can partially or completely block Wi-Fi signals. To maximize router efficiency, avoid placing it near or on the ground.

The ideal location for a router is an elevated spot near the center of the room, as radio waves tend to spread out in a downward direction. And although Wi-Fi signals can easily pass through walls and ceilings, fewer obstacles often results in better transmission. Metal objects, mirrors and appliances that emit electromagnetic waves are strong disruptors of a Wi-Fi signal.

Finally, avoid being an easy target to Wi-Fi hackers

Even with a password-protected network, remaining vigilant is key to preventing network intrusion and unauthorized access. Changing your router’s default password is a good place to start. Typically set by the device manufacturer, a router’s username and password are the same for all users.

More concerning, hackers can access a router’s credentials through a simple Google search about the brand. To maximize protection, access your router’s administration settings and set a strong password with numbers and special characters.

Also, disable auto-connect when joining a network and refrain from accessing, visiting, or using any website you think may lack the necessary HTTPS security protocol.