The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recently conducted its Public WiFi Usage survey in order to ascertain the level of consumer knowledge, awareness, and usage of public WiFi.
It is important to do research on this topic as public WiFi assumes an ever more expanding role in a widening portion of consumers, posing an alarming amount of potential hacking, identity theft, and fraud.
The survey responses indicated that over 78% of consumers use public WiFi, and of those 53% use public WiFi at least once a week.
Of those respondents using public WiFi, 74% had used public WiFi in coffee shops and restaurants, 54% in hotels, and 38% logged on in airports.
The advertising of public WiFi to consumers as a means to attract them to coffee shops and restaurants is becoming more commonplace and likely accounts for the high consumer usage in them.
Other locations consumers used were doctor’s offices and hospitals, which can pose serious security concerns if those public WiFi connections aren’t intended to be public and are just simply unprotected connections.
Considering the majority of consumers use public WiFi on a consistent basis, it is important that consumers are educated and aware of the dangers associated with the use of public WiFi.
Based on the survey, greater educational and awareness efforts are needed as 42% to 65% of consumers using public WiFi do not recognize the most common methods of data protection. Additional cause for concern is that 80% of the respondents believe using public WiFi could result in identity theft, but only 60% of consumers felt concerned when using public WiFi. This indicated a possible misunderstanding that while identity theft may be a risk when using public WiFi, it is so minimal that it doesn’t warrant any action.
WiFi Continues to Grow
Public WiFi will only become more accessible to the average person over time. For more than a year already, state and local governments have been installing public WiFi hotspots, increasing the availability and usage of public WiFi by their populations. This increase in public WiFi activity and usage will surely make public WiFi nodes a higher priority target for data thieves.
This potential epidemic can only be prevented by public awareness and education to create widespread use of readily available privacy solutions.