Do you take steps to protect your online security when you connect to WiFi hotspots? Unfortunately, for one out of every three hotspot users, the answer to that question is “no,” according to a recent study by Kaspersky Lab and the research agency B2B International. The survey of 8,600 participants in 19 countries revealed that 70% of respondents with mobile devices use free WiFi hotspots. But it found that far too many disconnect from the dangers before they connect.
- 34% take no special measures to protect their online activity on public WiFi networks.
- Another 14% said they were unconcerned about using WiFi hotspots for online shopping and online banking.
- Only 13% of those surveyed take the time to check the encryption standards of public hotspots before they connect.
Multi-Device Activity Multiplies Hotspot Users’ Security Risks
Without encryption of online communications between a hotspot user and the WiFi access point, it’s incredibly easy for a hacker to user sniffer software or Man-in-the-Middle attacks to steal a hotspot user’s sensitive information. Not surprisingly, as the number of mobile devices used by consumers increases, so does the volume of online security threats.
The Kaspersky Lab/B2B International survey found that the average household owns about 4.5 devices that are used for different tasks. And they’re most often used for financial transactions – a favorite target of cybercriminals.
- 95% use a computer, smartphone or tablet for online banking and 91% for online shopping.
- 74% regularly use e-wallet and payment systems.
Smartphone and tablet owners also frequently store personal and business data on their devices. This poses a major security threat, especially when they access online services at WiFi hotspots.
- 22% of smartphone owners (not including iPhone owners) store information needed to access their personal email accounts.
- 32% store work information on their phones.
- 29% of tablet owners (not including iPads) store work documents on these devices.
- 28% of tablet owners store work email information; and 23% store information needed to access personal email accounts.
- 30% assume their smartphone/tablet was protected from security threats when they first purchased it.
Mobile Device Owners Don’t Protect Their Devices Or Their Data
In reality, out-of-the-box smartphone security protection is not common. Only a handful of manufacturers build that kind of protection into their devices. And even when they do, it typically has very limited functions. What’s more, while many mobile device owners are concerned about online security threats, most aren’t taking action to reduce the risks:
- Only 40% of smartphone owners and 42% of Android tablet owners reported using security products.
- 81% of tablet owners and 84% of smartphone owners said they don’t use any kind of encryption to protect their sensitive information.
One In Four Mobile Users Falls Victim to Malware Attacks
This carelessness or naiveté about the need to protect their personal information and their mobile devices has led to a cybercrime boom.
- 27% of those surveyed said their device was infected at least once in the past year.
- 20% of all malware attacks led to the loss of sensitive information.
- In 36% of cases, users lost money after a malware attack; and 17% had to spend money on services to fix their device and remove the infection. Another 10% paid for data restoration services.
About 62% of Internet users who participated in the survey said they had been targeted by attacks at least once that were designed to steal their personal financial data:
- 30% had received a phishing email claiming to be from a bank.
- 21% of all mobile device owners were subjected to attacks that distributed fake antivirus solutions.
- Almost 4% of those surveyed reported being victimized by financial scammers; and of those 41% were unable to recover their losses.
- 18% of parents incurred financial losses or lost sensitive personal information due to their children’s actions.
Victims also suffered malware attacks that didn’t result in financial losses but led to a loss of their privacy. And adults weren’t the only victims.
- 14% experienced at least one incident in which one of their accounts had been hacked.
- 11% of children were exposed to inappropriate content; and 7% began chatting with strangers. Yet 22% of parents do nothing to protect their children online.
The Kaspersky Lab/B2B International survey found that that while using multiple mobile devices makes life convenient, productive and interesting, it also vastly increases your risk of becoming a cybercrime victim.
If any of these risky behaviors sound familiar, it would be wise to stop and think before you connect. Otherwise, using your mobile devices to connect to free public WiFi could end up costing you plenty. Over 12.5 million Americans were victims of identity fraud last year – one victim every three seconds.