AARP releases report on WiFi use
CONCORD – A new survey of Internet users shows that the freedom and convenience of public wireless networks may come at a cost.
Nearly half failed a quiz about online and wireless safety, while tens of thousands admitted to engaging in activity that could put them squarely in the sights of hackers looking to steal their personal information.
An AARP Fraud Watch Network report, "Convenience versus Security," shows that among adults who access the Internet, a quarter use free public Wi- Fi once a week or more.
"A free Wi-Fi network at an airport, hotel or coffee shop is convenient," said Todd Fahey, of AARP New Hampshire. "But without a secure network, Americans risk oversharing, leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks by con artists and hackers."
In response to these threats and need for greater awareness of the risks of cyber scams, AARP is launching the "Watch Your Wi-Fi" campaign to educate Americans about the risks of free public Wi-Fi and how they can protect themselves.
The survey results unveil a high incidence of risky online behaviors:
Among those who say they use free public Wi-Fi, more than a quarter of respondents (27 percent) say they have banked online via public Wi-Fi in the last three months.
Similarly, 27 percent of those who use free public Wi-Fi have purchased a product or service over public Wi-Fi using a credit card.
Twenty-six percent of smartphone users do not use a passcode on their phones.
Sixty-one percent do not have online access to all of their bank accounts.
Among those who have set up access to all or some of their online banking accounts, almost half (45 percent) say they have not changed their online banking passwords in the past 90 days. Experts say that online bank account passwords should be changed every 90 days.
Nearly half of survey respondents (45 percent) failed a quiz about online and wireless safety. Approximately 40 percent of respondents were not aware that:
It is not OK to use the same password on more than one site, even if it contains a complex mix of letters, numbers and symbols.
Even if you are not using the Internet, if you’re in a location with a public Wi-Fi network, you should disable your wireless connection.
It is not safe to access websites with sensitive information, such as banking or credit cards, while using a public Wi-Fi network, even if the website is secured by https.
"The Fraud Watch Network’s "Watch Your Wi- Fi" campaign is giving Granite Staters the information they need to stay connected without sacrificing their personal security," Fahey said.
A newly launched FWN cyber scam website features "Four Things Never to Do on Public Wi-Fi:"
Don’t fall for a fake
Con artists often set up unsecure networks with names similar to a legitimate coffee shop, hotel or other free Wi-Fi network.
Mind your business
Don’t access your email, online bank or credit card accounts using public Wi- Fi.
Watch your settings
Don’t let your mobile device automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi.
Stick to your cell
Don’t surf using an unknown public network if the website requires sensitive information – like online shopping. Your cellphone network is safer.
Consumers may also visit the new website to learn about three scams frequently associated with public Wi-Fi, including the "man-in-the-middle attack," an "evil twin" ruse, and the "war driving attack."
For additional information, including a video demonstrating the risks of unsecure Wi-Fi, visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network atwww. aarp.org/fraudwatch network.