Beware free public Wi-Fi: Kaspersky

Connecting to unprotected Wi-Fi networks puts your data at risk, according Kaspersky Lab researchers, based on research carried out by Harris Interactive in February to March 2012.

In order to understand customer attitudes towards modern technologies and security threats, the company surveyed almost 9,000 consumers from the USA, Europe and Russia.

The survey showed that about 70% of tablet owners and 53% of mobile phone users use free public Wi-Fi hotspots to go online. This is one of the most popular ways to access the Internet, along with cellular networks, which are used by 58% of those surveyed for data communication.

However it seems that many users are unaware of the dangers of free Wi-Fi networks, especially the fact that data transferred across the link (including login data for online banking systems) can easily be intercepted by cybercriminals, according to Kaspersky.

This is particularly alarming given that interception of sensitive financial data is the biggest source of concern for about 60% of users. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that mobile devices are generally less protected from unauthorised access than that of desktop or laptop computers.

“We are experiencing device usage growth like we’ve never seen before – and the impact on networks is profound and permanent,” says Michael Fletcher, Sales Director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. “As a result, many users are looking for easy and accessible Wi-Fi access to support their own smart devices – and in many cases, in the rush to connect, they forget about the security implications.”

The survey results also showed that security solutions are installed on less than half of all tablets and just over a quarter of mobile phones/smartphones (28%). At the same time, 82% of users have antivirus software installed on their home PCs and laptops.

Surprisingly, although tablets are designed to be mobile, they are most often used to access the Internet from home (49% of users) or office (39%). Work networks usually have a better level of protection and use an encryption protocol to ensure security of the data transferred.

“Fundamentally there is a converse relationship between security and convenience — and in the case of WLAN security; convenience translates into IT management resources in addition to end user time and effort. Finding a balance between the right level of security is critical for control, productivity and most importantly peace of mind,” concludes Fletcher.

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Beware free public Wi-Fi: Kaspersky