Think You’re Safe on Public Wi-Fi? Think Again

Let’s face it, Kiwi’s love their free Wi-Fi. Who hasn’t seen a Wi-Fi location appear on their phone that is open and free to use and not raced to switch their phone over from using 4G Data?

Free Wi-Fi is all well and good but in this day and age it’s important that connecting to public Wi-Fi hotsots is fraught with danger. Symantec recently released a Wi-Fi risk report that shows Kiwi’s are taking a “she’ll be right” attitude when it comes to connecting to these networks with 66% of Kiwi’s responding that they believe their information is safe on public Wi-Fi networks. More concerning is that 71% of people responded that they act unsafely when connecting to public Wi-Fi.

“There is a deep divide between what New Zealanders think is safe when it comes to using public Wi-Fi versus the reality,” said Mark Gorrie, Territory Manager, Consumer Business Unit, Symantec. “What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by cybercriminals through unsecure Wi-Fi Networks or even apps with privacy vulnerabilities.”

Kiwi’s in the the survey also showed some questionable behaviours on public Wi-Fi that become a a hackers paradise. “In the case of using public Wi-Fi for more private matters, joining an unsecure network could reveal more about a person’s personal information (or habits) than they bargained for,” says Gorrie.

  • 84 percent of New Zealanders have acted in a risky manner online while using public Wi-Fi, including checking their bank accounts, yet 51 percent reported they would feel horrified if their financial details were stolen and published online by hackers
  • 8 percent of Kiwis admit to viewing adult content on public Wi-Fi, better than the global average of 16 percent
    Of those, 29 percent admit to viewing in a public library and 17 percent have viewed at their workplace
  • 22 percent have accessed or would access a public Wi-Fi network without permission
  • 3 percent guessed or hacked passwords to get in.

Unfortunately we live in a World where their are plenty of unsavoury characters out their who will sit on a public Wi-Fi network and prey upon people who are using these networks in order to steal their bank account details, access their photos and other critical information that we have stored on our phone. Believe it or not, it actually isn’t that hard to do. The key to being safe on these networks, or at the very least, mitigating the risks associated with them is to ensure that you refrain from accessing the likes of internet banking while connected to public Wi-Fi. Another often overlooked way to protect oneself is to make use of VPN app for your phone like Symantec’s Norton WiFi Privacy. Norton WiFi privacy works by creating a secure “tunnel” that redirects your information from the network point you are connected to and better yet, encrypts it so that the data being sent is unreadable by the people who are trying to exploit public Wi-Fi hotspots to steal information and data.

Another way to minimise your risk is to looks for HTTPS in the websites you visit. HTTPS tells you that a website you are visiting is secure BUT remember that that doesn’t mean you are entirely safe because the website may be secure but if the network isn’t (think public Wi-Fi) then you are opening yourself up to having your information stolen.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of free data, I mean come on our mobile data limits are so small that we need a bit of free Wi-Fi to get our data plans through to the end of the month. Just remember that when you do connect that you do it safely so that your precious information remains in the right hands, yours.

 

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