The High Price of Using Free Wi-Fi Connections

Photo by vchal / Shutterstock.com

A lot of people are putting sensitive personal information — including financial details — at risk every time they use a public Wi-Fi connection to access the internet. Most don’t even realize the danger they face.

Other people can intercept information such as passwords that you enter into a phone, tablet or computer while using an unsecured internet connection. Yet according to the 2017 Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report, 60 percent of people believe their personal information is safe when using public Wi-Fi networks.

The report, recently released by security company Symantec, is based on a survey of more than 15,500 adults who use Wi-Fi across 15 countries, including the U.S. and Canada.

Fran Rosch, executive vice president of Symantec’s Consumer Business Unit, notes:

“There is a deep divide between what people think is safe when it comes to using public Wi-Fi versus the reality. What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by cybercriminals through unsecure Wi-Fi networks …”

The most common reasons that survey respondents use public Wi-Fi connections are to:

  1. Log into personal email accounts
  2. Log into social media accounts
  3. Share photos or videos
  4. Log into work email accounts
  5. Check bank accounts or otherwise access financial information

How to protect personal information on public networks

Perhaps part of the issue is that it seems we can’t live without an internet connection. Consider these findings:

  • 46 percent of survey respondents say they can’t wait more than a few minutes before logging onto a Wi-Fi network or asking for the password after arriving at a friend’s place, café, hotel or other location.
  • 71 percent say that access to a strong Wi-Fi signal is a deciding factor when choosing travel lodging.

That makes it tough for some of us to follow Symantec’s advice for safeguarding sensitive information, which involves sharing less personal information over public connections. Such personal information includes passwords and financial details, as well as photos. Symantec explains:

Even if you’re not actively sharing the information, your device may be doing so for you. Many devices are programmed to automatically seek connections to other devices on the same network, which could cause your files to be vulnerable. Be sure to disable sharing on your devices to ensure what’s yours stays yours.”

For more tips, check out “Protect Your Data — Critical Things to Know About Public and Hotel Wi-Fi.”

How do you feel about unsecured internet connections? Sound off below or on Facebook.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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