More than half of internet users are happy to share personal information with public, unsecured WiFi networks.
According to a report from Symantec, consumer demand for strong, free WiFi is overriding security concerns, with 87 per cent potentially putting their information at risk while using public networks.
The report, which surveyed more than 15,000 consumers in 15 countries, shows that 65 per cent of Britons feel safe when using public WiFi, despite being somewhat aware of security risks. In fact, one in twelve admit to viewing adult content via public networks, with one in six doing so worldwide.
"There is a deep divide between what people think is safe or private when using public WiFi versus the reality," says Nick Shaw, vice president and general manager at Norton by Symantec.
"What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by hackers through unsecure WiFi networks or even apps with privacy vulnerabilities."
Consumers are keen to access public WiFi when travelling, despite the EU's recent abolition of data roaming charges. Strong signal is a deciding factor when booking hotels and holiday rentals, according to 71 per cent of respondents. Almost half of people rely on public WiFi when using GPS apps to get around.
Despite the public's overall indifference towards these issues, the fear of exposure remains. Twenty-nine per cent of Brits have viewed banking or financial information over public WiFi, yet 52 per cent of Brits said they would be "horrified" if this information was posted online. About one-third (30 per cent) said they would pay to prevent personal information being exposed to their employer.
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