The dangers of public Wi-Fi networks

Open Wi-Fi networks offer convenience, allowing us to access the Internet in cafés, airports, hotels, and other public places. However, these networks are rarely properly secured and carry numerous security risks that many users need to pay more attention to.


Public Wi-Fi networks are free internet hotspots found in many public places, such as hotels, cafés, airports and shopping centres, and allow you to surf the internet without using your data tariff. But is it safe to connect to these networks?

Although there are some exceptions, it is important to note that, as a general rule, public or open Wi-Fi networks often have weaker security than private Wi-Fi networks such as those we may have at home. The same easy-to-connect characteristics that make them attractive to consumers also make them a magnet for hackers, who can gain access without the restrictions of a properly secured network.

Thus, a hacker connected to one of these networks could set up his or her equipment to get between us and the service provider, gaining access to our information or stealing our data.

Another of the techniques most commonly used by hackers to obtain confidential information from other users is to create a fake Wi-Fi network with the name of the establishment from which the signal is received, to gain access to the device of customers who connect to their network.


How can we protect ourselves?

We may find ourselves in situations where a public, open or not very secure Wi-Fi network will be the only connection available, so it is advisable to take some basic precautions.

  • Disable automatic connection. Ensure that your mobile or computer does not automatically connect to public Wi-Fi networks by setting your device to ask for authorisation before connecting to a network.
  • Update your device. It is essential to have run all pending updates to your device, whether it is the operating system, browser, or the applications you use. This will close any security gaps that third parties could use.
  • Download an antivirus. You probably already use an antivirus on your computer, but it is also advisable to install one on your mobile phone if you use it to connect to open Wi-Fi networks.
  • Avoid using banking applications. When connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, it is better to avoid accessing our bank’s application or any other payment application that we may use to make online purchases.
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN). Many of these VPN applications are free and offer an encrypted virtual connection between the two data exchange points that will stop cybercriminals from accessing or at least make it more difficult for them to do so.
  • Check for SSL certificates. SSL is a standardised technology that encrypts data traffic between two web servers, thus securing the connection. If the letters “HTTPS” appear at the beginning of the address (URL) of a website, this place is protected by an SSL certificate. Therefore, activate the option to always use HTTPS on websites that you visit frequently, or that require your data.

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