VicFreeWiFi Network Security Tips

The VicFreeWiFi network is free to access by all. Whilst most users on the network are responsible, you still need to be vigilant against hackers who will try to invade your privacy. Here are some tips to make sure you’re prepared: 

©iStock.com/Nikada 

©iStock.com/Nikada 

  1. Being Safe: use websites that are secure, those that use the https:// prefix. These sites protect and encrypt information that you send to and receive from that website. For example when accessing email remotely make sure your webmail is occurring via the https:// prefix by checking the webmail address. Make sure that the https:// prefix doesn’t disappear after you login and continues for the whole session. A couple of suggested safe practices:
    • Install an https-everywhere plug-in on your browser. It automatically use the more secure https connection option instead of http for a website, if they support it.
    • Whenever you need to access secure sites, like banking, avoid manually entering a URL, it is much safer to use a bookmark/favourite or click on a the https:// link (found through a search engine)
  2. Treat Email Safely: some email applications will connect using no encryption at all and are usually the first thing to make an outgoing connection to the internet the moment a new WiFi connection is made. This means your emails, username and password are visible to anyone listening. Check with your email provider on how to configure SSL/TLS to encrypt your email connection from the moment your device connects to a network.
  3. Being Careful: avoid conducting sensitive transactions (unless connected via the https:// prefix) such as entering any personal information, especially passwords, shopping using a credit card, sending confidential email and doing online banking.
  4. Safeguard Checks: Just like you would get your car regularly checked, the following checks will reduce the chance of invasion to your privacy:
    • Check that your firewall is installed and enabled
    • Set your network to public (not private) as this will block certain programs from running, such as file sharing
    • Keep your antivirus and operating system up to date, as this ensures the latest security vulnerability patches are installed
    • Turn on the setting “Ask to Join Networks”, this will require your action to connect to a network, including regularly used networks. This will train you to recognise when you should and shouldn’t be connected to certain networks
    • Ask for help if you are unsure, it is better to be safe than sorry. See the links below
  5. Being Really Safe: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the best way to protect your communications. A VPN encrypts all your traffic occurring between your web browser and the internet, via a secure server. A VPN makes it very difficult for anybody, including a hacker, to invade your privacy. Free VPN software is available to download, see Free VPN services you should know about as a starting point.
  6. Keep Up-to-date and Informed: the following websites provide very useful information to stay safe online, regardless of which network you are connected to:
    • Stay Smart Online is the Australian Government's online safety and security website, designed to help everyone understand the risks and simple steps we can take to protect our personal and financial information online. The site provides specific advice for protecting users of Mobile Devices, like smartphones, tablets and laptops, which can be hacked, infected with a virus and, if unsecured, provide access to your personal information
    • The eSafety website provides important information about how to protect children when they experience cyberbullying or prohibited online content. It also gives specific guidance for parents on offensive and illegal content, and provides a free and confidential online and phone counselling 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 55 1800 for children from the age of 5
    • The Lifehacker website provides some guidance on configuring some of your device settings and applications to keep you safe on public WiFi Networks