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The risks of using public Wi-Fi

Many of us have logged into public Wi-Fi before without even giving it a second thought. However, there is a reason as to why public Wi-Fi is free and these will become clear from this blog. It's worth remembering that free doesn't always mean good.

Public Wi-Fi points or hotspots are exactly that for cybercriminals, they provide them with unrestricted access to the things we buy, look at and share over the internet. Once hackers have these details, they can steal the information you are sharing. This is the equivalent to a burglar not needing a key to walk through your front door and steal from your home

Hackers do this by positioning themselves between your device (so your phone, tablet or laptop) and once they have done this, they are able to intercept the information you are sharing. So, picture this… you’re working away sending emails to those within and outside of your organisation and whilst doing this, a hacker has been given access to everything you’re sending out on the internet. This includes important emails, credit card information, passwords, and other login credentials.

This information is then collected up by the hacker, where they can then use the data to access your systems pretending to be you. Often, this information is also sold on to other cybercriminals who will then be able to use this information to do things like compromise other accounts you use, such as your social media accounts or trick you into a phishing attack.

What is a Phishing?

Phishing is when attackers attempt to trick users into doing 'the wrong thing', such as clicking a bad link that will download dangerous software onto your device or direct them to a dodgy website. Phishing can be conducted via a text message, social media, or by phone, but the term 'phishing' is mainly used to describe attacks that arrive by email.

Whilst using public Wi-Fi is risky, there are some simple steps you can take so you can use it safely, these are:

  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to stop hackers seeing the data that you send across the internet when using a public Wi-Fi source.

  • Turn off sharing on your device when connecting to a Wi-Fi source, go to the system preferences (OS device) or Control Panel (on your Windows device) and choose the "Public" option the first time you connect to a new, unsecured network.

  • Avoid accessing websites that hold your sensitive information, such as such as financial, healthcare, or social media accounts.

  • Update all software across all devices, from the operating system to your smartphone and desktop apps, as they almost always include crucial security updates.

  • Use strong and separate passwords for all clients, systems, and software.

  • Turn on two-factor authentication where possible for every system and device used.

  • Install an antivirus or an anti-malware product on all devices that support it and set regular scans to run automatically.

  • Where possible use the data on your phone instead of wi-fi and if you don’t need to connect to the internet, stay off it if you can.

Take the next step to protect yourself and your business

Improve your business’s cyber security with free membership at the Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands.

With this membership, you will receive regular tips and guidance on how to firm up your business’s cyber security. We have already produced checklists for you to follow to help you develop best practices, short and easy to follow videos that highlight how to spot the signs of a phishing attack and many other resources.

Receive your digestible welcome pack when signing up today and start protecting your business today.


The contents of this website are provided for general information only and are not intended to replace specific professional advice relevant to your situation. The intention of The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands is to encourage cyber resilience by raising issues and disseminating information on the experiences and initiatives of others.  Articles on the website cannot by their nature be comprehensive and may not reflect most recent legislation, practice, or application to your circumstances. The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands provides affordable services and Trusted Partners if you need specific support. For specific questions please contact us.


The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information or materials published on this document. The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands is not responsible for the content of external internet sites that link to this site or which are linked from it.

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