UK wi-fi users at risk of data and ID theft

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padlock.gifA new survey suggests that wi-fi users are opening themselves to the risk of data and identity theft.

Though 86% of wi-fi users surveyed said they knew there was a risk that their data could be intercepted when connecting via a wi-fi hotspot, only 22% used encryption to protect it, and 37% of users said they’d used networks belonging to unknown businesses and residents.

The survey revealed that although many users are aware of the threats that their PC is exposed to when connected to the internet, they are less aware of the risk that their data is exposed to as it travels through wi-fi hotspots. While 77% of respondents used antivirus software and 72% used a firewall, only 8% encrypted their data and only 14% used a secure, encrypted link to the internet.

And most of those users know that they’re taking a risk, with only 14% unaware of the security issues.

Over half (51%) used wi-fi hotspots several times a week; 15% used them weekly, 20% every couple of weeks and 14% monthly.

The most popular use of hotspots was to send personal emails (75% of those surveyed), followed by work emails (51%), general research and connecting to the company network (37%). Sensitive data is often sent via wi-fi, as indicated by the 28% of users who said they engage in internet banking and the 23% who shop online via wi-fi. A quarter of those surveyed update their blogs or personal websites from wi-fi hotspots.

Aston Fallen, CEO, Steganos, said “Identity theft is a growing crime and our survey shows that wi-fi users are putting themselves at risk unnecessarily. Through the personal and work emails and the e-commerce activities that people undertake, they risk revealing personal information that could be used to steal their identities. Using strong encryption to protect data in transit is the only approach that is guaranteed to defend wi-fi users. Even if data is intercepted, criminals will not be able to decode it and exploit it.””

Well, strictly speaking, encryption doesn’t guarantee complete safety, but it’s a lot better than engaging in unprotected wi-fi.

Andy Merrett