Australians are risking their bank accounts by using public Wi-Fi

Peter Terlato 23 December 2016 NEWS

mobile coffee free wifif public laptop

If available, 1 in 5 users will connect to a public network.

New research, the first of its kind to analyse Australia's public Wi-Fi use, found more than 5 million people access unrestricted or password-free connections, exposing them to significant security breaches.

RMIT University and Di Marzio Research collected data on user awareness of public Wi-Fi network security issues and examined how this influenced their decision-making.

56% of respondents accessed public Wi-Fi in the last three months, with 22% of those logging on weekly.

Cafes and restaurants (31%) were the most popular places to access public Wi-Fi, while shopping centres and accommodation providers (29%) were also favourable, as were parks and city squares (17%) and new internet service Telstra Air (16%).

Public Wi-Fi was most commonly used to browse the web (77%), for social networking (57%) and to send or receive personal emails (51%).

More than a quarter of respondents said they had conducted financial transactions (internet banking, credit card and Paypal payments) on public Wi-Fi networks in the previous three months.

About one in seven users had undertaken work-related activities on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, potentially compromising business, governmental and civil society organisations.

Around 18% of users were exposed to significant risk.

While the majority (60%) of users recognised public networks were somewhat insecure, almost half of those who conducted financial transactions ignored these fears, opting for convenience over security.

If freely available, one in five users will connect to a public network.

Australia ranks sixth highest on an international scale of attacks on web applications.

Almost two thirds of respondents felt public networks were insecure forms of internet connectivity.

Reason public Wi-fF users decided not to use a network

Reason Percentage
Network access not required 38.6%
Security concerns 23.3%
Speed/Quality of service 16.9%
Preferred to use mobile data 12.2%
Login requirements 9.8%
Usage restrictions 1.1%
N/A 3.8%

Each year, millions of Australians send money to friends and family across the globe. Using public Wi-Fi connections to complete online banking transactions can be perilous.

Learn how to best protect yourself against unauthorised banking transactions.

Latest bank account headlines

Picture: Shutterstock

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