Using public wi-fi: BEWARE

I logged onto a public wi-fi network recently and thought ‘this is handy, I can do some work without using my data’. Little did I know there are significant cyber security risks associated with using insecure public networks. Turns out I am not alone.

According to a research study about public wi-fi networks by RMIT University, there were almost two million Australians conducting financial transactions, and around one million performing work-related tasks, including email and file sharing, on insecure networks.

We worked alongside members of the RMIT Centre for Urban Research including Dr Ian McShane and Dr Christopher Wilson to conduct the survey in 2016 with 1,200 Australians. We enquired about behaviour relating to public wi-fi networks including what they are used for and people’s understanding about network security and unearthed the following insights:

Public wi-fi is used by more than 10 million Australians

Public Wifi

It is particularly significant for the young and the elderly

Many users access free networks provided by businesses

Mobile phones (particularly smartphones) are most commonly used to access public wi-fi

Mobile phones are most commly used to access public wifi

It is frequently used for work-related purposes and/or financial transactions

The above findings have many implications particularly relating to educating the public about the risks associated with using public wi-fi. One thing is for sure, this research has made me think twice about how I will use a public wi-fi network in future.

For those interested to find out more, the full report is publicly available (which you can access using the link below) and despite the warnings identified herein, if you happen to be reading this on a public wi-fi network, we believe it’s safe to download 😊

Practicing safe public WiFi: Assessing and managing data-security risks (PDF).

We’d like to acknowledge and thank Chanel Bearder (Public Engagement and Communications Officer for Urban Research at RMIT) for the development and use of the infographics shown herein. 

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