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Behaviours on Wi-Fi

While consumers are unable to resist a strong, free Wi-Fi network, their online behaviours may be placing their personal data and privacy at risk. That is according to an IT security product company.

Norton by Symantec’s 2017 Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report suggests that some people will share – and do – almost anything on public Wi-Fi. Nick Shaw, vice president and general manager at Norton by Symantec, said: “There is a deep divide between what people think is safe or private when using public Wi-Fi versus the reality. What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by hackers through unsecure Wi-Fi networks or even apps with privacy vulnerabilities.”

The report surveyed more than 15,000 consumers in 15 countries to learn about their public Wi-Fi practices and perceptions. Many of the UK findings show that people are aware of the risks of public Wi-Fi, but are not necessarily changing their behaviours. In fact, nearly everyone (84 per cent) is acting in a way which could put risk their personal and private information at risk. UK market highlights include:

Nearly half (42 per cent) of consumers can’t wait more than a few minutes before logging onto a Wi-Fi network or asking for the password after arriving at a friend’s place, café, hotel or other location. Two in five (19 per cent) have accessed Wi-Fi without the Wi-Fi network owner’s permission, and one in twenty (5 per cent) guessed or hacked the password to get in.

Despite the recent EU legislation abolishing data roaming charges, more than half of Britons (58 per cent) indicate they intend to continue using public Wi-Fi, notably to avoid using up their monthly mobile data allowance (36 per cent). This is especially true while traveling, as Britons say access to a strong Wi-Fi network is a deciding factor when choosing:

a holiday rental or hotel (55 per cent)
a place to grab a bite to eat or drink (29 per cent)
a transportation hub (27 per cent)
or which airline to fly (20 per cent)

Nearly half (45 per cent) of people surveyed said the most important reason to stay connected is to use a GPS or map app to get around, and 35 per cent of Generation Z’ers want to ensure they can share their updates and photos on social media. And in the case of using public Wi-Fi for more private matters, joining an unsecure network could reveal more about a person’s personal information (or habits) than they bargained for, the report points out. One in 12 admit to using public Wi-Fi to watch adult content on public Wi-Fi, and of those they admit doing so at:

A hotel, hostel or holiday rental (47 per cent)
A café or restaurant (26 per cent)
The airport (25 per cent)
Work (24 per cent)
A train or bus station (19 per cent)
On the street (18 per cent)
Library (18 per cent)
Public toilets (17 per cent)

While nearly everyone (84 per cent) potentially put personal information at risk when using public Wi-Fi, including checking their bank accounts or logging into their personal email accounts, four in five (81 per cent) of UK consumers don’t use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to secure their Wi-Fi connections, even though it is considered one of the best ways to protect your personal information.

Over half (52 per cent) reported they would be horrified if the details of their bank accounts and financial information were stolen by a hacker and posted publicly online; 21 per cent reported they would be embarrassed if the details of their closest secrets or private chats/texts conversations (15 per cent) were posted online by a hacker; and three in ten (30 per cent) reported they would even pay to prevent their personal information, such as browsing history, being exposed to their employer. And 32 per cent would pay to avoid such information reaching their family.


The report is an online survey of 15,532 adults aged 18-plus who use Wi-Fi across 15 countries, commissioned by Norton by Symantec and produced by research firm Reputation Leaders through international online panel company Research Now. Visit


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