During tax season and beyond, it is hard to go a day without seeing a sign for free public WiFi at a local coffee shop, library, restaurant, airport, hotel, train station and countless other locations. No matter where we go, WiFi is around us. While having instantaneous and constant access to wireless hotspots can be convenient, they also come with dangers and risks. Have you ever asked yourself whether you are protected against hackers and threats when using public WiFi?
Public WiFi and Your Sensitive Information
A new online study conducted in the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of PRIVATE WiFi revealed that 66% of U.S. adults have used public WiFi; and 39% of those who have said they have accessed or transmitted sensitive information while using it:
- 26% checked a bank account
- 19% paid a bill
- 8% sent an email with sensitive information such as their Social Security Number or an account number
- 6% filed their taxes
- 10% have done so in another way
Despite the fact that they transmit sensitive information while using public WiFi, there are potential online security risks that people recognize. The top concerns include identity theft (88%), compromised accounts (76%), and fraudulent tax filings (39%).
These findings come during tax season, when U.S. adults who use public WiFi may be more likely to access or transmit sensitive information containing financial data.
For Protection Against Hackers: Use a VPN
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) like PRIVATE WiFi protects you when you access public WiFi by encrypting everything you send and receive—including web traffic, emails, and IMs. PRIVATE WiFi uses the same technology employed by your bank or your credit card company to keep your data safe, while you are connected to public WiFi. By rerouting your data through an encrypted server in another location, you stay anonymous.
The survey also asked about preferences and attitudes towards VPN technology. U.S. adults who don’t already use a VPN said they would purchase one if it were affordable (45%), if they had more information overall (30%), or if their identity were compromised (24%).
The results of the Harris Poll reveal that the public needs to know just how easy it is for hackers to steal their private and sensitive information out of thin air. VPN technology can protect them, and it’s an easy, affordable solution. But they shouldn’t wait until after their identity has been stolen to seek protection. Instead, they should do so pre-emptively to avoid the inherent threats of being put in a compromising position—such as identity theft—that could happen when using a free WiFi hotspot.
Who Uses Public WiFi?
Curious about what else we learned about public WiFi users? Here are some additional facts from the survey:
- 53% of free public WiFi users are men, while 47% are women
- 37% of free public WiFi users are ages 18-34, 19% are ages 35-44, 18% are ages 45-54, 15% are ages 55-64, and 11% are ages 65+
- 64% of free public WiFi users have at least some college education
- 17% of free public WiFi users have a total household income of $50K-$74.9 and 42% have at total household income of $75K+