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Wi-fi users at risk of data and identity theft

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Wi-fi users at risk of data and identity theft

New survey finds users send personal and work information through the air without encryption. 37% confess to using unknown open connections

A new survey commissioned by Steganos, European leader in providing security and privacy software for consumers and SMEs, has found that UK wi-fi users are needlessly exposed to the risk of data and identity theft. Although 86% of those 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% use any form of encryption to protect it. 37% of wi-fi users surveyed said they have used networks belonging to unknown businesses and residents nearby, exposing themselves to the risk that their data could be intercepted by the operators of those hotspots.

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. The vast majority of wi-fi users know they’re being reckless: only 14% were unaware that somebody could intercept their data while they are connected via Wi-Fi.

About half (51%) of those surveyed use wi-fi hotspots several times a week, with 15% using them weekly, 20% using them every couple of weeks and 14% using them 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 ecommerce 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.”

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