And that makes them easy targets for online fraudsters, according to a new WiFi hotspot survey of 1,641 adults in the United Kingdom by Experian Consumer Services.
The survey’s findings demonstrate that when it comes to using public hotspots, British WiFi users need a basic lesson in wireless security:
- 96% of mobile users who access WiFi hotspots don’t know or aren’t sure how to select the most secure mobile settings for their devices.
- 58% of respondents’ mobile devices automatically connect to available free WiFi networks.
- Yet 12.4% of those surveyed use WiFi hotspots for online banking; and 63.5% use hotspots to access email.
WiFi Users Need to Open Their Eyes to Hotspot Security Risks
Peter Turner, Managing Director of Experian Consumer Services UK says users need to be on guard every time they use public unsecure WiFi hotspots. And many hotspot users clearly aren’t doing that.
“Think of them like you would a public phone call. You would not openly discuss something personal or private if you thought people were listening, so don’t say it with your laptop, tablet or smartphone. By being blasé, we are all putting ourselves at risk of identity theft.”
We wish that we could tell you it’s only the Brits who don’t know or don’t care about of the dangers of using public hotspots. But we can’t.
Survey after survey confirms that many hotspot users worldwide don’t stop to think before they connect. In an October 2012 poll conducted on Kaspersky’s global Facebook pages, 32% of more than 1,600 people surveyed said they typically use public WiFi networks whether or not encryption is enabled. The same month, a survey conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center with PRIVATE WiFi found that 24% of respondents said they made purchases in a public hotspot. And 57% admitted to accessing confidential work-related information. Even more disturbing, 44% said they weren’t even aware there was a way to protect their sensitive information when using a public hotspot.
These and many other hotspot usage surveys demonstrate that the level of trust many WiFi users place in public hotspots is misplaced – especially since the vast majority of hotspots around the world are not secure.
That’s why Experian has these tips for protecting your wireless security at hotspots:
- Save important tasks such as online banking for your secure home network.
- Check with hotspot venues to be certain the hotspot you’re connecting to is the real one, not an fake designed to steal your information.
- Disable the automatic connection to preferred networks on your mobile devices. This will prevent you from automatically connecting to a fake hotspot because it has the same name as one on your preferred network list.
- Look for the padlock icon on the website’s URL in the address bar or check for https if you’re entering sensitive information on a web page.
- Don’t use apps unless you know they encrypt data. Otherwise you risk exposing information or login details over unencrypted WiFi networks.
- Consider using a personal VPN to protect your sensitive information when it’s traveling over unsecure public WiFi networks.