USA Today Magazine: Hotspot Users Need to Think Before They Connect


“More than 12,500,000 Americans were victims of identity fraud last year–one victim every three seconds.”

identity fraudThe above is the first of many startling facts presented by PRIVATE WiFi CEO Kent Lawson in a recent article, “There Is No Vacation from Cybercrime at WiFi Hotspots,” from the July, 2013 issue of USA Today Magazine. Featured in the Law & Justice section of the publication, the story discusses the varied vulnerabilities at many of the 825,000+ public hotspots worldwide and what users can do to ensure that their data is safe.

You can read a full copy in our press section here or you can check out these 10 highlights:


  • A March Survey by Prosper Mobile Insights found that nearly eight out of 10 smartphone and tablet users not only bring their devices on holiday, they use them all the time. Yet, few travelers realize that those smart devices together with their risky behavior at WiFi hotspots create a perfect storm — vastly increasing their risk of identity theft every time they connect.
  • Since hotspots use radios to transmit data over the public airwaves, the information traveling over them moves at lightening speeds, but that data is, by definition, not private. It literally can be grabbed out of thin air… Every time consumers connect to a hotspot without taking proper precautions, they risk having their confidential information stolen in a frightening array of cyber attacks.
  • In a 2013 survey by the Cloud Security Alliance of more than 200 enterprise Internet security professionals around the world, four out of five ranked unsecured WiFi hotspots and rogue access points (fake hotspots) among the top security threats.
  • The 2012 and 2013 Javelin Strategy & Research Identity Fraud Reports should make the risk of using smart devices at public hotspots painfully clear… One out of every seven smartphone users was a victim of identity fraud in 2011, a 33% higher incidence rate than the general public.
  • Another report from Juniper Research concluded… only five percent of global smartphones and tablet had security software installed even though those devices account for 58% of hotspot connects, according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance.
  • Hotspot users need to remember that, just because their mobile devices are small and easy to use, does not mean they do not contain as much sensitive information as their desktops or laptops. That same information is transmitted across public WiFi networks–everything from names, birth dates, and email to bank log-in, Social Security and credit card numbers.
  • Anti-virus and malware solutions will defend mobile devices against many cyber attacks, but they will do nothing to secure sensitive data traveling to and from mobile devices on public WiFi networks. Yet, the Public WiFi Hotspot Usage Survey (conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center) found that only 27% of hotspots users routinely use a virtual private network to encrypt their sensitive information.
  • Nowhere is the hotspot hacking risk greater than when consumers are on the road. That is when they are most dependent on using mobile devices to stay in touch. Vacation travelers may want to connect to a WiFi hotspot with their smartphone to avoid wildly expensive international roaming charges, or they may be tempted… to pay a few bills, catch up with friends on Facebook or check in on what is going on at work.
  • The Federal Trade Commission recommends using a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your sensitive information when using WiFi hotspots.. VPNs encrypt your data by sending it through a secure tunnel that makes it invisible to hackers.
  • Online privacy is an oxymoron at public WiFI hotspots. Hotspot hackers are getting better at what they do all the time… Consumers need to stop ignoring the enormous risk of connecting without protecting their information. Free WiFi is costing us plenty… Hotspot users need to think before they connect.
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Jillian Ryan

Jillian Ryan is PRIVATE WiFi's Director, Brand Communications and Social Strategy. With a passion for writing, the web, and fast-paced information exchanged via social networks, Jillian is also concerned about the ramifications of putting your life details and personal data into cyberspace. Follow her on Twitter: @Writing_Jillian.

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