August 22nd 2016
Get Safe Online has today issued a warning to the public and businesses to be cautious when accessing or supplying private data when connected to public Wi-Fi hotspots – particularly sensitive information relating to bank accounts, payments and other personal data.
The UK now has over 300,000* public Wi-Fi hotspots, with more people than ever before potentially becoming the target of cyber criminals, simply because they don’t know how secure the wireless networks they’re using actually are.
The advice given by Get Safe Online relates to Wi-Fi networks that are commonly found in public places like cafes, hotel rooms, airports, and pubs. It warns that if not fully secure, these networks have the potential to be hijacked by cyber criminals who will seize the opportunity to defraud individuals or steal their identity – or both. In addition, it also reports, cyber criminals have been known to set up fake hotspots on their own laptops in public places and fool members of the public into logging onto them.
Get Safe Online CEO Tony Neate commented: “The UK has well over 300,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in place – situated in many of the places we love to visit whether that be a high street shopping centre, hotel or restaurant. The very fact that we have all of these hotspots goes to show that we are a very connected nation. However, although public Wi-Fi offers us great convenience, it can also present a number of dangers – especially as many of us are unaware of the actual security of the hotspots we use on a regular basis. Although they may seem safe when logging in and even sometimes request a code, indivduals could soon find themselves the victims of cyber crime.
“Although it may sound like the stuff of a spy thriller, cyber criminals can easily hijack public networks in order to steal our money and our most personal data – in some extreme cases, even our identity. Our advice is not to use public networks if you are looking to browse confidential information; are about to log into an account (like an online bank account); or are about to make a payment of some sort. Doing so on a public network comes with huge risk – particularly if you have no way of knowing how secure the network you’re using is.”
Staying safe on public Wi-Fi networks
Along with our warning, here are some simple tips which you should follow to stay safe when using public Wi-Fi networks:
1. Don’t use the public Wi-Fi provided in places such as cafes, pubs and hotel rooms if doing anything confidential online, including logging into online accounts.
2. Remember that just being given an access code or being asked for your email address, doesn’t indicate that the Wi-Fi connection is secure.
3. Instead of using premises’ hotspots, use a mobile broadband dongle that is set to secure, your 3G or 4G data connection – even if it’s slower – or wait until you can access a router you know to be secure.
4. Consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to connect when accessing your company network. If you are a mobile worker, ask your IT department.
5. Wherever possible, use well-known, commercial hotspot providers such as BT Wi-Fi.
6. Ensure your home and office wireless networks are secured.
7. It’s OK to use public Wi-Fi hotspots for things that you don’t have to log into or aren’t confidential, like checking the news or planning (but not booking) your next holiday.
* Statistic for number of UK public Wi-Fi hotspots (339,797 UK public Wi-Fi hotspots in total) was sourced from https://www.ipass.com/wifi-growth-map/ – the data on the site provided by Maravedis Rethink.