Many Dutch people are still using (insecure) public Wi-Fi

According to the National Cybersecurity Awareness Survey 2018, undertaken as part of the annual Alert Online awareness campaign, 38 per cent of Dutch people let their laptops connect to the internet using public Wi-Fi. On their smartphones, 31 per cent are willing to use public Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, if a Wi-Fi network at an airport, restaurant or holiday venue is open to customers and guests, it's open to cybercrooks as well. In other words, it's not secure, even if you need a password to connect.

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Using public Wi-Fi can be dangerous

When you connect to a public Wi-Fi network on your phone, laptop or tablet, cybercrooks can access your device and therefore your personal data. They can see what you do on line and use data sent from your phone to access your Facebook or DigiD account. Fortunately, you can avoid problems by thinking about your settings before you connect. With your device set up the right way, the risk of hackers stealing and using your personal data will be much smaller.

Security benefits of VPN unused by many

One way to get on line securely via public Wi-Fi is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is like an additional layer between the public network and the internet, which uses encryption to keep your traffic secure. However, one of the worrying things to come out of the survey is that one laptop user in three never uses a VPN when connecting via public Wi-Fi. And nearly half of smartphone users never make use of VPNs.

How to use a public Wi-Fi network securely

  • Don't let your phone, laptop or tablet connect to a public network automatically.

    Disable Wi-Fi or select the 'Always ask before connecting' option.

  • Always prefer a 3G or 4G mobile network to Wi-Fi – they're more secure.

    If you've got to use a public network, don't do any website-based internet banking or other things that involve the exchange of personal data. And make sure that the websites you visit have SSL security certificates: look out for ‘https://’ in the URL and a green lock icon in your browser. Finally, don't install software updates while connected to a public network.

  • For optimum security on a public network, use a VPN. With a VPN client installed on your device, you have an additional, encrypted layer between the public network and the internet. Your device connects to the public network, and via that network to the VPN. Then you can confidently do your internet banking or surf the net without leaking personal data. VPN apps are available both for

    Android devices and for iPhones.

  • Tell your device to 'forget' public networks after using them.

    Cybercrooks can mimic the public Wi-Fi network of, say, a café that you once visited. To stop your device connecting to a spoof network, go to the 'Saved networks' list in your Wi-Fi settings and select 'Forget network' for each old public network.

Watch Hackman use public Wi-Fi to get at Lieke van Lexmond's personal data

Hackman used a public Wi-Fi network to gain unauthorised access to the personal data of actress and presenter Lieke van Lexmond. Watch the video!

Want to know how to connect a wireless device to public Wi-Fi securely? Read our security tips.

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