Students at Oxford University are warned of dangers of public Wi-Fi

Students are being warned about public Wi-Fi Photo: Shutterstock <i>(Image: Photo:</i>
Students are being warned about public Wi-Fi Photo: Shutterstock (Image: Photo:

Students at Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University have been warned about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi.

As the new term is starting, Šarūnas Karbauskas, a cyber-security expert at VPNPro, has warned that students still risk sharing personal information online if they don’t take precautions.

He added that many publicly accessible Wi-Fi networks are generally deemed safe however.

Mr Karbauskas said: "A common misconception is that if a public Wi-Fi network requires a password to connect your device, then your personal information is entirely safe from cybercriminals, which simply isn’t the case.

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“While password-protected Wi-Fi networks are definitely much safer than password-free networks, you can still be vulnerable to potential online attacks when entering personal information online.”

Mr Karbauskas added that students needed to take care while in cafes, pubs and restaurants.

He said: “Most public Wi-Fi networks, such as in cafés, pubs and restaurants, are password-protected which means that your data is encrypted when you are browsing online.

Oxford Mail:
Oxford Mail:

“This means that if someone outside of that network intercepts your connection, they won’t be able to understand the data and are unlikely to be able to do anything with it.

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“If you connect to a public Wi-Fi connection that doesn’t require a password.

"However, your data is not encrypted, which means that all information you enter online can be captured by anyone within range of the network. This includes any personal or banking information you may have entered.

“Using a password-protected Wi-Fi connection is much safer but can still pose some risk.

"If your café's Wi-Fi router uses old-school encryption for example, every user’s web traffic is encrypted using a single key which means that anyone on the network can see what you’re doing."

Tips for staying safe on public Wi-Fi networks 

Sometimes you may need to use a public Wi-Fi network. In these cases, there are several precautions that you can take, to reduce the risk of revealing your personal information to cybercriminals.

1. Verify the Wi-Fi connection 

If you are at a café or pub, ask a member of staff if you are about to connect to a legitimate Wi-Fi connection, as cybercriminals often imitate Wi-Fi hotspots in order to intercept sensitive data.

2. Enable your device’s Firewall 

Most modern laptops come with a built in Firewall, which shields your computer from malicious network traffic and helps prevent unauthorised access to your laptop.

3. Enable HTTPS only mode 

When online, make sure there is a padlock symbol next to the URL of every website, as this ensures the information passing between your device and the web server is encrypted, preventing most third parties from spying on it.

Most browsers will do this by default, but you can switch on a ‘HTTPS only feature’, which will automatically move you to the secure HTTPS encrypted version of a website if you happen to end up on the unencrypted HTTP version.

4. Never install software or certificates 

A free public Wi-Fi network should never ask you to install any additional software or certificates to use it. If it does, this could indicate that you are connecting to a fraudulent network.

5. Avoid logging into or checking sensitive information 

Hold off on logging into banking, social media and email accounts or entering any personal information on public networks until you get home, even if you are using password-protected public Wi-Fi.

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Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

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