Using public Wi-Fi: Are you an easy target for hackers?

Published August 17th, 2016 - 11:35 GMT
Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks allows hackers access to persons' sensitive information like banking details and account passwords. (File photo)
Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks allows hackers access to persons' sensitive information like banking details and account passwords. (File photo)

Technology can get so creepy nowadays that, apparently, more people in the UAE believe that sitting in a car without a seat belt is less risky to a certain extent.

According to the Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report 2016, which surveyed over 9,000 people across nine markets, confusion about the security of public Wi-Fi networks can make people easy targets for hackers. Two out of three respondents are unable to recognise the difference between a secure and unsecure Wi-Fi network, putting the convenience of connectivity before the security of their personal information.

It added that connecting to public Wi-Fi networks allows hackers access to persons' sensitive information like banking details and account passwords.

To put this into perspective, check out this easy-to-understand graphic from Private WiFi:

While 88 per cent of consumers globally are worried about connecting to public Wi-Fi networks that may allow others to steal the information they enter, more than half of adults (57 per cent) believe their information is safe when using Wi-Fi networks available in public places like airports, hotels and cafes and assume they have security built-in.

That's not the case, says Norton.

Even popular apps found on Android devices lack security; 25 per cent of the most popular Android apps transmit sensitive information without encryption to keep it protected.

When logged into public Wi-Fi, hackers are able to steal information as it travels across the Web, which they can sell on the dark web for profit, or even use the information to drain bank accounts. The study also found that three out of four respondents dread having their personal account logins and passwords sold, more than having intimate photos of them posted online without their consent.

However, while it appears consumers worry about hackers getting hold of personal information and sensitive data, activities exposing personal information are common with 81 per cent of consumers having shared sensitive information over unsecure public Wi-Fi.

Here's more stuff from the study:

- More than half of consumers have logged into personal and social media accounts while using unsecure Wi-Fi networks, potentially compromising the credentials to their personal and professional e-mails.

- One in five consumers have accessed financial/banking information over public Wi-Fi.

- Younger generations are more likely to think public Wi-Fi is safe: 68 per cent millennials and 62 per cent Gen-X, vs 55 per cent for those 55 years and above. Surprisingly, parents (66 per cent) are more likely to think public Wi-Fi is safe than non-parents (59 per cent).

- Nine in 10 consumers are concerned about their information being stolen over public Wi-Fi networks, but don't know how to protect themselves.

- While using public Wi-Fi, consumers worry about unauthorized access to their financial information (87 per cent) and personal photos/videos (80 per cent), getting infected with malware (86 per cent), and having someone read their e-mails (79 per cent).

- Seventy-four per cent of consumers would dread a criminal selling the login/passwords to sensitive accounts more than an intimate photo leak.

. Sixty-nine per cent of consumers would dread having their social media accounts hacked when using coffee shop Wi-Fi more than not having internet access at all.

Now for the rather interesting part: In the UAE, consumers are aware of some of the inherent risks when using a public Wi-Fi connection; in fact, Norton says, 53 per cent of UAE respondents feel that using public Wi-Fi is riskier than riding in a car without a seatbelt.

Norton has introduced the Norton WiFi Privacy mobile app for Android and iOS devices that helps shield consumers' information from hackers snooping on wireless networks. Still, it's best to be responsible when using public Wi-Fi - any Wi-Fi, as a matter of fact.

By Alvin R. Cabral


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