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How secure are BT Wi-fi hotspots?

Your BT Hub has an in-built security system that scrambles the signal it sends. It does this with an encryption code, so the signal doesn't make any sense to other computers. We then give you a unique code (called a wireless key) to enter into your computer so you're the only one who can pick up your Hub's signal.

However, using public wi-fi networks is different. By their very nature, they don't have wireless encryption so people can use them as a public service. This means there's a risk information could be intercepted if a website doesn't secure its data as it passes between your laptop or smartphone and the hotspot.

What can I do for extra security?

The first thing to do is avoid using the hotspots of people or businesses you don’t know or trust. But even if you're using BT public hotspots, there are recommended steps to take. It's particularly important to be careful if you're accessing sensitive email, or entering passwords and personal details when shopping or banking online.

1. Send data down a private 'tunnel'

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) work by encrypting all of your data to make it virtually impossible to intercept. Most large companies use VPNs to protect their data as it passes over public wi-fi networks.

Your device manufacturer can make a recommendation on the best VPN software or app for your device. For more information on internet security go to www.getsafeonline.org > (opens a new window).

2. Install security software

We recommend that you use firewall and anti-virus software, such as BT Virus Protect, which comes with either 2 or 15 licences, and is free with all broadband packages. This means you can install it on up to 2 or 15 devices - a mixture of PC, Mac and Android.

To check which version you get, go to www.btcom.ll-digital-sandbx1.bt.com/mybt >

If you get two licences but want more, you can buy 15-licence BT Virus Protect for just £4 a month and the first month is absolutely free.

To download BT Virus Protect:

  1. Log in or sign up to My BT
  2. Scroll down to 'My Extras' and download from the 'BT Virus Protect' panel

3. Use a secure channel

Look for the lock icon at the bottom of your web browser whenever you log in to a website to buy something or visit any kind of online account.

Also try to use 'https' (HyperText Transport Protocol Secure) websites instead of the less secure 'http'. Websites use 'https' as security to encrypt the data you send and receive, stopping people intercepting it.

Type 'https://www' at the start of web addresses to visit sites securely. If the letters change back to 'http' it means the website you're visiting doesn't offer this option.

4. Update your operating system

To be secure as possible it's also important to keep your operating system security patches up to date. For example, you should regularly visit Microsoft's Windows update website or the software update section of Apple's website.

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