27/07/2017 2:53 PM AEST | Updated 27/07/2017 2:53 PM AEST

Why You Need To Be Very Careful Logging Onto Public Wifi

For starters, don't check your bank account unless you want criminals to know your password.

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A recent report found 60 percent of us feel safe when using public Wifi but most are actually not.

Using public Wifi is incredibly convenient for obvious reasons; for starters, you don't have to pay for it. You could be in a library, airport or hotel and browse away, seemingly without a worry.

But cyber security experts say we should be worried, or at least incredibly careful, about what passwords you put into public Wifi. Do you really want to risk criminals getting your valuable information?

A recent survey by Norton found 60 percent of us feel safe when using public Wifi but most are actually not -- because 51 percent of Australians connect without a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A staggering 83 percent of respondents admit to have logged into personal email accounts, checked bank balances and shared photos and videos online while using public Wifi.

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If you don't want anybody to see your sensitive information, such as banking passwords, don't put the information on public Wifi, it's as simple as that.

Ryan Kalember from Proofpoint told HuffPost Australia there's no reason to stop using public Wifi, but there are several precautions everyone should take.

"You need to be aware that when you join a public Wifi, you need to safeguard your passwords. Whether it's your banking or email passwords, those are very valuable to cyber criminals," Kalember said.

"What happens is cyber criminals will make a fake captive portal, so if you go into that fake Wifi network, anything you send to websites can be intercepted. That's a big challenge from a security perspective. It's very profitable for criminals to gather your valuable details."

"All of this can be sold onto the dark web for profit, or be used to steal your money."

Put simply, you shouldn't be looking at your bank account on a public Wifi, particularly if you're re-entering your password.

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When you see a network and it asks for a password, that doesn't mean it's a secure network.

"In airports, for example, most people are posting the SSID, the name of their legitimate wireless network which is usually what you're able to connect to. If you're on a smartphone, you'll usually see the words 'security recommendations' below the wireless network, which is known to be trusted," Kalember said.

"But it's not impossible for an attacker to use a fake network via a device known as a 'pineapple' and that's where you'll be in trouble."

Michael Jankie, from PoweredLocal told HuffPost Australia when you see a network and it asks for a password, that doesn't mean it's a secure network.

"It's only the authentication that is secured, which is about as useful as an ID check at a bar. It doesn't stop people who shouldn't get in getting in, and it doesn't stop anyone from messing with anyone once they're in," Jankie said.

"Once on that network, you are going to be open to attack and monitoring from any other user or infected device on the network. More often than not, the most secure networks are those with no password, but a Captive Login Portal that appears once you click on the network."

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Just because your hotel or favourite restaurant has free Wifi doesn't mean it's safe for you to use it.

The safest rule of thumb is to remember that anything you wouldn't want somebody else to see (such as your online banking password) you shouldn't put on public Wifi.

"Passwords are the most obvious targets for cyber criminals and that's what you should avoid entering into any banking websites. If you're on public wifi and you're asked to update your password, don't do it, it's not a good idea! Also any information you regard as being sensitive, whether it's to do with your partner, or a business transation, should not be sent over public Wifi," Kalember said.

"There are ways called splitting attacks that can get in between you and a website. So my advice to people is, when using public Wifi, tread very carefully."

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