Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Wi-fi and hotspots

Home wi-fi and free wi-fi hotspots are a convenient way to connect when you are at home or out and about. Find out the best ways to keep yourself safe when using them.

What to do

Home wi-fi

Many Australians set up home wi-fi networks. These networks can have good security and firewalls to stop hackers as long as you enable the security when you set up your network.

Is my wi-fi secure? 

Your wi-fi network is secure if a locked padlock appears against the name of your network. To see if your home wi-fi is secure go to the list of networks under ‘settings’ on your device.

When setting up the network, use the password provided or enter a new password that is hard to guess, or ‘strong’, and connect all your devices with that password. See our advice on setting strong passwords and protecting your personal information.

Public and free wi-fi hotspots

A wi-fi hotspot is an area where access to the internet is through wireless technology. Public wi-fi hotspots are commonly found in airports, cafes and restaurants, hotels, shopping centres and on public transport. They are often free and unsecured, so be aware that there are risks when using unsecured wi-fi hotspots.

Many businesses offer wi-fi hotspots free for customers, and some may require a password and perhaps acceptance of terms of use. Some hotspots charge a fee for access, and these tend to be more secure.

Are there any risks in using wi-fi hotspots?

Wi-fi hotspots are convenient, but they come with some risks to personal information and safety.

It is easy to hack free wi-fi hotspots, giving hackers access to your personal information, such as credit card and banking details, or allowing them to download malware on to your devices.

Access to calendars and data from wearables (like fitness watches) could give a stalker information about your daily activities and where you will be, for example, from knowing your exercise routine.

What can I do to minimise the risks of using a wi-fi hotspot?

Follow these steps to reduce the risks of using public wi-fi hotspots:

  • Use secure public wi-fi hotspots when possible. Treat any hotspot as unsecured unless the operator tells you otherwise — check the security clause of the ‘terms of use’.
  • Make sure you connect to the right hotspot. Stop your devices from automatically connecting to public wi-fi whenever it is available, select manual connection instead. Check with the venue if you are not certain of the hotspot’s correct name — this will ensure you do not accidentally connect to an unknown network.
  • Choose a hotspot that requires a password.
  • Think twice before signing up to a hotspot that asks for a lot of personal information.
  • Consider using a VPN, or virtual private network, particularly if you use public wi-fi a lot. VPNs increase privacy and security by encrypting your data.
  • Consider switching off location services on your mobile or tablet and file sharing on your laptop while connected to the hotspot.
  • Visit only secure web pages from hotspots – look for ‘https://’ in the website address and a locked padlock icon. Learn more about browsing the web safely.
  • Make good choices about what you do online in a hotspot — do not access your bank account or do other things that might disclose your personal information (like downloading data from a wearable device).
  • Never leave your device unattended in a public space when connected to a hotspot.
  • Disconnect from the hotspot once you have finished using it — or, even better, ‘forget’ the network when you leave it.

How to use wi-fi

Apple devices - Wi-Fi

How to use wi-fi on your Apple device

Android devices - Wi-Fi

How to use wi-fi on your android device

Mac - turning off Wi-Fi

How to turn off wi-fi on your Mac