Norton Risk Report Reveals Concerning Info on Public Wi-Fi Usage

Consumers may take extra care at home when browsing the internet but all bets are off when they surf on public Wi-Fi.

In the second annual Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report, startling numbers regarding how consumers use and access internet in public spaces were revealed.

The report finds that 64% of people feel safe and secure when using public Wi-Fi, yet only 16% use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect their connection. Typically VPNs are used to connect to a remote network resource when a user is not physically connected to that resource–think of accessing work data securely from home. In this case, a VPN should be used to secure and encrypt their communications over an untrusted network.

It’s not that your local Starbucks is an untrusted Wi-Fi network, but more so that anyone from hackers to malware installers may have access to that same unsecured network. From there, they will have an easy way into your personal computer.

Access to Wi-Fi when away from home is a big deal–consumers will choose certain hotels, restaurants and even airlines depending on the access to strong and free internet. The problem is that most don’t think twice when hopping on said free Wi-Fi. Of those surveyed, 87% admitted to taking security risks on public Wi-Fi, including accessing personal email and financial information.

The study goes on to share some fairly shocking figures. One in six have admitted to having used public Wi-Fi to watch adult content, with hotels/Airbnbs and restaurants being the two main places used to access that content.

The study shows that consumers should take time to educate themselves on internet literacy. Almost half of those surveyed can’t tell the difference between a secure and unsecure network, and one in five access a Wi-Fi network without the owner’s permission.

The moral of the study? Use a VPN when surfing publicly and change your Wi-Fi password to something harder to guess than “123456.”