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How safe is free public Wi-Fi?

27 February 2019

With free Wi-Fi on tap these days, many of us don’t think twice about connecting to it when we’re out and about. However our high dependency on public Wi-Fi is also putting our personal information at risk. A Norton by Symantec worldwide survey (PDF) found that 87% of respondents had accessed personal sensitive information such as their bank accounts while connected to public Wi-Fi.

Cybercriminals can intercept public Wi-Fi, making it easy for them to look at what you’re doing and steal your information.

Cybercriminals will also often set up rogue Wi-Fi hotspots with names that look like a legitimate network. If you fall victim and connect to these fake networks, cybercriminals can get their hands on your banking credentials, account passwords and other valuable information.

So how do I stay safe?

  • Don't do your online banking or shopping, send confidential emails or enter your passwords or credit card details on public Wi-Fi. Wait until you’re using a secure home, office or mobile connection.
  • Turn off automatic connection to Wi-Fi in your device’s settings. This will stop you from automatically connecting to Wi-Fi networks without checking them first.
  • Confirm the 'official' hotspot name from venue staff and manually connect your device to it. Don’t let your device automatically connect to the first hotspot in its list.
  • Always remember to disconnect from the hotspot after you’ve finished using it.

More information

Learn more about Using public Wi-Fi.

Stay Smart Online also has information on protecting your information online and protecting your mobiles and tablets.

Find out where to get help if you believe you have become a victim of a scam.