Are you safe using public wifi?

You need to be certain that you're actually connecting to the network you think you are


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Summer's a time for getting out and about, whether it's travelling abroad or simply sitting outside a cafe in the sunshine.

Either way, there's a fair chance that you'll want to use the internet, taking advantage of the free wifi that's now so widely available.

Last year, a survey for Broadband Genie revealed that 44% of us regularly use public wifi, with four in five accessing social media, a quarter shopping online and 15% using online banking.

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But do you know how to stay safe?

For a start, you need to be certain that you're actually connecting to the network you think you are.

"The most common threat is still a hacker positioning himself as a wifi hotspot - the so-called honeypot wifi," explains virtual private network provider NordVPN.

"When that happens, a wifi user will be sending their information to a hacker instead of a legitimate wifi spot - and that could include credit card information, private emails and any other sensitive information."

Even if you are using the right network, there are big dangers. With a public network, any traffic can potentially be seen by any user. Hackers can use sniffers - normally used by IT specialists to monitor the health of a network - to access another person's data.

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Finally, don't forget the low-tech method of simply looking over your shoulder to spot your password.

The most effective way of staying safe in a wifi hotspot is to use a VPN, which encrypts everything you send and receive. These are a lot simpler to use these days.

Otherwise, it's a question of making sure your security firewall is turned on - and that automatic wireless network connection isn't. Meanwhile, your system settings shouldn't be set to public sharing.

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Best of all, just avoid using public wifi for anything too sensitive, says Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online.

"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," he says.

"Doing so on a public network comes with huge risk – particularly if you don't know how secure the network you're using is."

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