Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi hotspots

Free Wi-Fi hotspots are a great convenience when you're out and about. Find out the best ways to keep yourself safe when using them.

Home Wi-Fi

Many Australians set up home Wi-Fi networks. These networks can have good security and firewalls to stop hackers if 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.

Public 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 of the 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 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 about the risks?

The good news is there’s plenty you can do 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’re not certain of the hotspot’s correct name.
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  • 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.
    Watch our video on web browsing.
  • Make good choices about what you do online in a hotspot – don’t 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’ve finished using it – or, even better, forget the network when you leave it.

Find out more about the risks of using public Wi-Fi hotspots and what you can do on the ACMA website.

'How to' videos about Wi-Fi hotspots

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