New research has found that 28% of Wi-Fi hot-spots are insecure and putting user data at serious risk.
The figures come from a study by Kaspersky Labs who have analysed more than 31 million of these Wi-Fi connections situated right around the world – as big a sample as any similar study you are ever likely to find.
They found that 25% of these hotspots used no passwords and no encryption of any kind to protect users. This means that users connecting to those hotspots, which amounts to some 8 million in those sampled alone, are exposing everything they do online to hackers.
A further 3% of those surveyed used WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) to encrypt user date. However, this is a long-outdated encryption protocol which even the most novice of hackers can break in just a few minutes.
Of the remaining 72% of Wi-Fi hotspots analysed, most used the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) protocol. This is much harder to hack but is still not 100% secure. If the connection has an easy-to-crack password (and far too many people are still using things like ‘password’ and ‘12345’ for such things) it is no more secure than the WEP protocol.
And if the hotspot is located in public place like your local Starbucks or at the airport, it is also highly vulnerable as it is easy for hackers to access it.
Kaspersky Labs has also analysed where in the world the most insecure Wi-Fi hotspots are, and the findings are worrying for anyone who might be taking a festive break this year.
Their top 20 countries with insecure Wi-Fi connections included France, the USA, Israel, and Thailand. Given that many holidaymakers will be taking advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels, cafés, and bars, this is likely to make them particularly vulnerable.
Using a VPN
Commenting on the findings, Denis Legezo of Kaspersky echoed some age-old advice to those who use public Wi-Fi connections, but it is well worth repeating. He said “Don’t use hotspots without passwords and don’t use public hotspots to perform high-risk activities such as online banking or shopping… and of course, we strongly recommend using additional measures to protect traffic, such as VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology.”
Given that the current findings echo previous research by Kaspersky which found that 71% of those surveyed do use such Wi-Fi connections, 15% of which admitted to performing such sensitive tasks, it is little wonder they feel the need to hammer the message home.
VPNs should be considered mandatory for anyone who is making use of Wi-Fi hotspot connections, especially public ones. Even doing so on an occasional basis is opening up your online data to significant risk. And there is just no need.
A decent VPN like IPVanish or ExpressVPN will encrypt all of your online data no matter what type of connection you are using. This means you can log onto whatever site or service you want without having to worry, or indeed expose yourself to serious risk.
Remember the data proves that more than a quarter of such connections are insecure, and like pickpockets in the High Street during Christmas shopping season, the festive period brings all the opportunistic cyber-criminals out of the woodwork too. Follow the advice of Kaspersky and make sure you stay safe online.