Wi-Fi users not as safe as they think, survey says

A survey released by the Wi-Fi Alliance suggests that a large number of Wi-Fi users are not as protected as they believe.

Among Wi-Fi users, there's a big gap between knowing about Wi-Fi security and keeping their network and devices secure, as revealed by the Wi-Fi Security Barometer Survey results that the Wi-Fi Alliance announced today.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the survey, conducted by Wakefield Research in August, randomly asked 1,000 participants age 18 or older around the country about their knowledge of Wi-Fi security. Around 97 percent of the interviewees said they thought that data on their devices and networks was "safe and secure." However, when asked which of several recommended steps they have actually taken to protect their Wi-Fi networks or devices, respondents received an overall score of just 66 percent. This means that in practice, users were actually not as safe as they could be.

The good news is, according to the survey, most users (about 86 percent of those surveyed) have taken basic steps to ensure the privacy and security of their Wi-Fi network by enabling security protections on their access point or router. However, only 59 percent have implemented wireless passwords or encryption methods that meet the basic criteria for strength and privacy. This means that there is a large number of people who have been using Wi-Fi with a false sense of security.

The survey's findings also revealed that about 85 percent of users understand that Wi-Fi devices should not be set for automatic sharing, but only 62 percent actually have turned the autosharing features off. When accessing the Internet using a public hot spot, only 18 percent of those surveyed use a VPN tool. The most interesting finding of the survey is that users who think of themselves as "tech-savvy" are not likely to score better in measures of Wi-Fi security behavior than those who consider themselves less comfortable with technology.

This is probably because it's quite easy to keep your network safe as long as you can follow the instructions. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the first step is picking the strongest encryption method (currently WPA2) when available. The second is to pick a strong password for the wireless network; a strong password consists of at least eight characters, including a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. And lastly, when you're on the go, connect your device to Wi-Fi networks that you know and let only people you know connect to your personal hot spot.

Those who don't want to have to remember or fiddle with the password should look for devices that support a Wi-Fi Protected Setup feature that provides a simple, easy-to-use process for enabling security.

About the author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

 

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