UK internet users unaware of risks of public WiFi

Over half of WiFi users in the UK are unaware of the data protection risks of using the wireless network in public, according to a new study.

Produced in collaboration with YouGov and UK2, a web hosting company, the survey found that 56 per cent of UK adults who access the internet in a public environment via WiFi – for example, in a cafe or library – do not bother checking to see whether the system in encrypted or not.

This lack of network security means they are leaving themselves exposed to online threats like malware and cyber-snooping. It gives cyber criminals carte blanche to tap into their networks and extract key data.

The most startling thing is that many people who use WiFi in open spaces – including hotels and airports – are aware of the potential hazards and pitfalls.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of respondents to the survey expressed unease over online viruses, 41 per cent admitted to being concerned about phishing and 40 per cent were troubled by the idea there are people out there with the skills needed to hack into devices.

"The results of our research on public WiFi usage suggest that users prioritise convenience over taking sensible security precautions," explained Russell Foster, managing director of UK2 and VPNHQ.

"The amount of personal data transmitted from mobile devices is growing, making them increasingly attractive targets for cyber criminals."

With a proliferation of portable multimedia machines saturating the market – laptops, netbooks, tablets and smartphones to name just a few – many people are unaware of how to enforce appropriate security measures.

What was worrying about the study was the numbers of people sending out personal information while using public WiFi. 22 per cent said they typed in email passwords, 21 per cent logged into Facebook and eight per cent had conducted online banking.

Mr Foster advised people to consider setting up a virtual private network (VPN), which he said was quick and easy to do.

A VPN allows certain devices to encrypt wireless communications, making it difficult for sensitive information to be exposed.



Posted by Helen Jenkins, ""