Is your connection secure?

February 02, 2012, 12:07 PM GMT+0

56% UK public WiFi users don’t check if connection is secure before using; 45% share private data

The majority of the UK public who ever uses public WiFi has put themselves at potential risk of exposing confidential data by not checking if a public Wi-Fi connection is encrypted before joining, our online poll on behalf of webhosting service UK2 has found. The results also show that almost half of UK adults who ever use public Wi-Fi have entered private information such as passwords and credit card details when logging on to a public connection, such as those in coffee shops, pubs, airports or hotels.

  • 56% don’t or 'rarely' check whether a public WiFi network is encrypted before use
  • While on public networks, 45% of UK WiFi users could be putting their passwords and data at risk by logging-in to email, while 37% access Facebook
  • 14% have logged in to online banking accounts while on a public network
  • While 15% of the UK’s public WiFi users have entered credit or debit card details over a public WiFi network

Public WiFi networks, UK2 has warned, are often unsecured connections which can expose personal data and increase potential for online threats such as malware, spyware and cyber-snooping. Without a secure Virtual Private Network ('VPN') tunnel, this information is freely available to any hackers who might be snooping.

A VPN greatly reduces the chance of stolen or compromised personal information, as it secures data with encryption technologies to prevent any disclosure to unauthorised parties.

Keeping your smartphone smart

The survey also found that when it comes to smartphone users' Internet access, the majority of those surveyed were unfamiliar with VPNs and how they can be used on devices such as smartphones to secure private information in a public Wi-Fi zone.

  • 68% of UK smartphone users who have ever used WiFi did not know whether or not their device had VPN functionality
  • 67% did not know what a VPN is
  • 42% of online UK adults would use public Wi-Fi more often if they could guarantee the security of their data

Despite a lack of precautions taken in public, many consumers say they are aware of the risks presented by public Wi-Fi networks and expressed concerns in our poll over the damage unsecure networks could cause.

  • 46% of online UK adults are concerned about viruses
  • 41% admitted to worries about phishing or pharming
  • 40% are anxious about the threat of cyber-snooping or hacking while using mobile devices

Russell Foster, managing director of UK2's new brand VPNHQ, which enables users to set up a VPN quickly and easily, has said that our results indicate that VPNs are a great necessity among Wi-Fi users, and can prevent private information such as passwords or bank details being stolen or compromised.

'Research on public Wi-Fi usage suggests that users prioritise convenience over taking sensible security precautions. The amount of personal data transmitted from mobile devices is growing, making them increasingly attractive targets for cyber criminals,' he warned.

See the survey details and full results