Are public Wi-Fi networks safe?

Staying safe in public means more than looking both ways before you cross the road.

22nd May 2016
Are public Wi-Fi networks safe? (© Getty)

Asked by: Andrew Watson, Sheffield

No Wi-Fi network is completely safe if you have the wrong settings on your phone or computer. When you browse http pages, you are transmitting and receiving unencrypted text; this makes it easy to intercept, making your passwords vulnerable. Only https pages are secure. If you have Sharing enabled on your computer, it is possible to access your files or even remotely log on to your system. For these reasons it’s best to keep Sharing switched off, your Firewall turned on, and do not browse sensitive websites on public networks. If you have to do so regularly, you should use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). 


Read more:


SFQASubscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun facts.