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Science
19 Jul 2017

Happiness is free Wi-Fi! But would you risk personal data?

What else could give us internet addicts more happiness than free Wi-Fi?

Being so impatient to get connected on free internet networks, we hardly think twice before accessing them.

But security firm Symantec's Norton says one should!

It says free Wi-Fi hotspots are increasing in India, but not many know what an open connection means or if it's worth risking security and personal data.

In context

Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report 2017

Report

People take significant risks to hook on to free Wi-Fi

'Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report-2017' surveyed 15,532 mobile device users across 15 global markets, including India.

It studied the behavior and attitudes of users while accessing public Wi-Fi.

It revealed 87% of them had put their personal information, including photos and bank details, at risk for using free Wi-Fi.

Norton disclosed the extent to which such networks are used and how they can compromise security.

Cybercrimes

96% Indians potentially put personal information at risk

Users think data is private on their devices, but cybercriminals could easily access it through compromised apps or Wi-Fi networks.

96% of the surveyed Indians checked bank accounts, social media profiles, and shared personal photos/videos on public Wi-Fi.

This makes it easy for hackers to gain access to login IDs and passwords typed across sites; they can easily intercept data transmitted on public networks.

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73% Indians ready to exchange personal details for Wi-Fi

India

73% Indians ready to exchange personal details for Wi-Fi

The report found 73% of Indians agreed to swap personal information for strong Wi-Fi connection.

35% accepted to watch three-minute advertisements, 22% allowed access to photographs, and 19% gave permission to access and edit their social media profiles.

19% of Indians also allowed something as critical as permission to access personal emails; another 19% gave access to contacts and 16% to online dating profiles.

India's porn problem

Norton observed that 31% Indians viewed explicit content on public Wi-Fi. Among these people, 49% accessed such content on hotel, hostel, or lodging networks while 44% admitted to doing so on office networks.

Global Users

55% don't think twice before accessing public Wi-Fi

The report showed that about 55% of the users in the 15 global markets didn't think twice before accessing public Wi-Fi.

It also highlighted the users' urgency to remain connected; 46% of them couldn't wait even for a few minutes before logging onto Wi-Fi networks at public places.

71% of them said strong Wi-Fi signal is a deciding factor when choosing hostels/hotels while traveling.

How to ensure safety on public networks?

Online Safety

How to ensure safety on public networks?

Despite involving several risks, public Wi-Fi and networks can be accessed safely.

Consumers can use VPN (Virtual Private Network) to encrypt the data being exchanged on the internet.

Secure websites/webpages have HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) in the address bar and a green padlock.

Sharing sensitive data (email IDs, phone numbers, bank details) over public networks makes them vulnerable to cyber-risks.

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