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Free Public Wi-Fi. Is my private information really safe?

by brian_cody

Free Wi-Fi hotspots are a great convenience that allow us to connect to information and people while on the move. Whether it's at the local coffee shop, restaurant or travelling further afield free public Wi-Fi is no longer just something we do when on holidays. 

We use it every day, in ever growing places for pleasure and sometimes when travelling for business but while it makes our lives easier to connect to public networks, it also presents a risk to the personal information on your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Are you ready to become a Wi-Fi Warrior and battle the dangers of free public Wi-Fi?

With the explosion of handheld technology usage, in turn so has our desire to communicate 24/7. Many businesses now offer free Wi-Fi services for clientele as a tool for creating footfall. 

The offer of free Wi-Fi while grabbing that cheap coffee deal at the local cafe can be a deciding factor when looking to save on data costs from your mobile provider, but it could come with a cost to your privacy. Technically savvy hackers now have the tools, skills, and patience to work around the limited protection measures some hotspot hosts take.

While there is a need to be cautious of how you access your private information wherever you connect, when it's on public Wi-Fi there are some steps you can take to give you peace of mind that your most sensitive data like passwords and credit card numbers are protected.

What are the dangers of using public Wi-Fi networks?

It may seem safe to access Wi-Fi hotspots provided by your favourite big brands, local services and institutions, free Wi-Fi is actually very open to everyone, including hackers who can access the information you send and receive through unsecured networks.


  • Accepting the terms and conditions when connecting to free Wi-Fi does not always guarantee your security. Always read the small print before you connect to be sure of the level of protection the network provides.

  • Any data you transmit over wireless connections during your online sessions can be vulnerable to eavesdropping by strangers using the same network, unless you are logged into a private Wi-Fi network that required a password.

  • Criminals can create fake, look-a-like networks. They may look like a legitimate Wi-Fi access service, but their sole purpose is to fool you into handing over your sensitive passwords when you connect.

The real cost of free Wi-Fi?

An unsecured Wi-Fi network is any network that does not require password or login credentials to use the network. This can allow a hacker to position himself between you and the hotspot you're connecting to. So instead of accessing the hotspot directly, your information is sent to the hacker who then relays it on. 

If you're accessing your bank details, email and social media accounts on these free Wi-Fi networks then it presents a challenge to keep your information secure. After all, being the victim of identity theft, financial fraud or a social media hack is not the price you would expect to pay for a "free" service.

If connecting to free networks when travelling for business, then the privacy of your information becomes all the more important but it shouldn't put you off as there are some easy ways to protect your work in the digital space when using Wi-Fi hotspots.

How do you keep your information safe when using Public Wi-Fi?

  • One of the best ways to stay secure when using public Wi-Fi is to use a virtual private network (VPN) like Norton Secure VPN to make your public connections private.
  • Disable the “auto-connect to networks” feature on your devices to prevent your smartphone, tablet or laptop connecting to unsecure Wi-Fi without your approval.
  • Avoid sending sensitive information like photo’s, personal details or bank credentials on public Wi-Fi without being fully protected. 

  • Always check the security of the sites you visit when using public Wi-Fi. Make sure the site is secure and uses “HTTPS” in the web address.

  • Install trusted security on your all of your devices. Consider using software like Norton Security which offers a range of products tailored to suit your needs, giving real time protection against viruses, spyware, malware and other online threats.

The benefits of using a VPN?

Norton Secure VPN is a VPN that creates a private, encrypted information tunnel that helps prevent cybercriminals from eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi connections and intercepting the data you send and receive from your devices, but it also comes with some extra benefits.

You can browse anonymously and avoid being tracked online, wherever you are. Websites will also no longer be able to track you and deliver those annoying unsolicited ads as you enjoy unmetered bandwidth with your yearly subscription.

Travelling abroad? With Norton Secure VPN you can access your favourite apps, social networks and websites from anywhere, just like you were at home. Now you’ll never miss that latest series episode or sharing happy travel moments with loved ones back home.

The benefits of keeping your digital life protected start with ensuring that no matter if you’re at home or abroad, your personal information remains private.

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