Is Free Wi-Fi putting your business at risk?

Whether it’s a hotel or restaurant, shopping centre or waiting room, a public space like a library or hospital, or even just a mate’s place – people are unable to resist a strong, free Wi-Fi signal, and Norton Security have conducted a world-wide survey to prove it.

In May last year, Norton Security surveyed more than 15,000 free Wi-Fi users, including Australians, to see when and how they used it.

The survey discovered the most common reasons for getting online were to check personal emails, followed by social media, using maps and GPS signals to get around, sharing photos or videos, logging in to work emails and, alarmingly, online banking! One in six users also admitted to using public WI-FI to watch adult content.

The survey also revealed that free Wi-Fi even underpins our travel plans. Respondents said that a strong Wi-Fi signal was a determining factor when choosing accommodation, mode of transport and a place to eat or grab a drink while on holiday.

Did survey respondents feel their personal information was safe when using free Wi-Fi? Sixty per cent said yes, yet 53 per cent couldn’t tell the difference between a secure or unsecure public Wi-Fi network.

The truth is, what web browsers think is private is often not, and can be easily hacked through unsecure Wi-Fi networks. Using that ‘free Wi-Fi hotspot’ is putting users’ personal details at risk whether they are on a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

However, if free Wi-Fi is just too tempting for you, here's how you can minimise the risk:

  1. Verify the name of the network before you connect
    It’s easy for your data to be intercepted in a ‘man in the middle attack’ whereby hackers set up a network called ‘Free Wi-Fi’ or similar with a nearby venue name to make you think its legitimate.
  2. Share less
    Don't use passwords, banking details or upload private photos.
  3. Only visit websites beginning with HTTPS
    This means that the website is secure -but be careful, your personal details are at risk if your network connection isn't secure.
  4. Keep your apps updated
    But be sure not to update them on public Wi-Fi. Users have been caught off-guard when connecting to public or hotel Wi-Fi networks when their device prompts them to update their software.  If accepted, malware can be installed onto the device.
  5. Where possible, have two passwords to log-in to your accounts such as Gmail and Facebook.  This provides an added later of protection if hackers do cotton-on to your password.  It's wise to use different passwords across multiple services.
  6. Forget the network
    Once you have finished surfing the web, log off any services you were signed into. Then, tell your device to forget the network. This ensures your device won't automatically connect to the network again if you're in range.
  7. Create a virtual private network (VPN) which encrypts traffic between your device and the VPN server. This means it's much more difficult for a would-be hacker to access your personal data.
  8. Use your mobile hot-spot instead of free wi-fi.

Our advice is don't use it, if you can avoid it especially if it is for business or financial purposes.  You're much better off using your mobile device as a hot-spot or buying a dedicated hot-spot device.  

If you need any assistance with your cyber security or you don't know where to start please call us on  1300 478 738 or email us at

About the Author

Geoff Stewart is a highly experienced and skilled Technology Director at Surety IT. His knowledge is based on years of industry experience having created customised, stable, well performing systems both for multi-national companies in the UK and Australia and Surety IT customers.

Surety IT can help you create the right system to enhance your business, ensuring you know how it is right for you and how to use it. We will tailor a solution to suit your needs with leading systems, local support and more, building your vision for a more flexible and capable business.

Call us today on 1300 478 738 or email to discuss your requirements.