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January 25, 2012

Think twice before accessing public WiFi Networks

Research reveals that public WiFi users are sitting ducks for online threats and stolen personal information.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

A study released by YouGov and web hosting company UK2 found that over 50% of UK public WiFi users are connecting mobile devices to unsecured networks, potentially putting their confidential information at risk.

According to the study, 56% of UK adults who use public Wi-Fi rarely check whether the network in use is encrypted to ensurethe information being shared is kept safe. Some of the 56% do not check at all.

This means using public Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airports, and coffee shops can potentially open your personal information up for unwanted exposure. Devices such as laptops, iPad ans smartphones are all vulnerable to online threats like malware and spyware.

In a poll by Sophos Security, it was found that 61% feel the biggest threat on the internet is users not doing enough to protect themselves. This is particularly true when connecting to unsecured public WiFi networks.

The survey reveals that many consumers were aware of the some of the risks in using public Wi-Fi networks but despite concerns, some 22% surveyed have entered personal information such as email addresses, Facebook log-ins, online banking passwords and credit or debit card details. All information that could have severe repercussions if stolen, such as ID farming, credit card cloning or outright theft.

The research also shows that 46% of all online adults are concerned about viruses, 41% admitted to worries about phishing or pharming, and 40% are anxious about the threat of cyber-snooping or hacking while using mobile devices.

Russell Foster, managing director of VPNHQ, suggests solutions like using a Virtual Private Network. A virtual private network (VPN) allows features of mobile devices to encrypt wireless communications which can make using public WiFi networks safer for user private information.

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"The results of our research on public Wi-Fi usage suggest that users prioritise convenience over taking sensible security precautions," said Foster.

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

Please follow this author on Twitter @Tineka_S or comment below.

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