Authorities are warning the public to take precaution when accessing public WiFi. Pictured is a LinkNYC kiosk on 3rd Avenue, New York City's free broadband service, on March 21, 2016. Photo: Getty

Authorities in Canada are warning WiFi users to take precaution when accessing the internet in public. The Ontario Provincial Police said people are putting themselves at risk for cyber theft when they use weak passwords while accessing free WiFi networks, local media outlet Nugget reported Thursday.

One of the ways the public can protect themselves against online identity theft is by strengthening their passwords. This can be done by lengthening it to a minimum of eight characters and including a combination of letters, symbols and numbers. “It is incumbent upon all of us to do whatever we can to protect our identities and information from those who will exploit that information for criminal gain without hesitation – regardless of where they or you are located,” said Rick Barnum, deputy commissioner of Ontario Provincial Police Investigations and Organized Crime.

WiFi connection whether at home or on the go can easily give someone access to personal information. WiFi hotspots that offer free internet access are often unsecured and are targets for identity theft. It is important to use your best judgment when accessing public WiFi and stick to connections that can be trusted, like airports or local coffee shops in which some connections are password protected.

Despite the many precautions that should be taken while on public WiFi, when used properly it can be safe. “The best thing you can do is let them collect the least amount of information as possible,” Scott Tod of the North Bay Police Service said.

Tod suggested refraining from accessing online bank information as the account can become compromised. It is also important to make sure file sharing is turned off and all software and drivers are up to date.

“The next generation of criminals have a well-established home in cyberspace,” Barnum stated.

By regularly changing strong passwords, using sites with HTTPS and taking other precautions, it is possible to lower the risk of cyber theft.