A strong Wi-Fi signal is one major factor that helps many Canadians decide where they want to stay when on their summer travels. While a hefty majority of Canadians believe their information is safe while using public Wi-Fi networks at hotels, restaurants and elsewhere, a new report reveals that these services aren’t as secure as users might like to believe they are. Should that be a concern if your deciding to take a last minute summer trip in or outside the province?
So, how concerned should we be when using free public Wi-Fi?
The most common misconception about public Wi-Fi is that it’s secure. This new security report just out reveals that 64 per cent of Canadians feel their personal information is safe when using public Wi-Fi , which is higher than the global average of 60 per cent.
In addition, 66 per cent of Canadians said that Wi-Fi access was a deciding factor when choosing a hotel, while 36 per cent said it was a deciding factor when choosing a place to eat or drink and finally 32 per cent said it helped them decide on an airline. So by and large having access to public Wi-Fi is a major determining factor affecting where Canadians socialize, eat and travel.
One final statistic indicates that 88 per cent of consumers have potentially put their information at risk while using public Wi-Fi by accessing their personal email, bank accounts or other financial information when connected.
So what types of behaviours would be considered risky?
Risky behaviours on public Wi-Fi include logging into personal email accounts, checking bank accounts or accessing personal financial information. They also include sharing photos on social media or logging into work email.
I think based on these risky behaviours, more people need to be aware to the fact that as soon as you connect to a public Wi-Fi and agree to their user agreement, an agreement that nobody usually reads you are then potentially opening yourself up to greater security risks.
Did this study reveal anything else that we should be aware of?
It also reveals that more than half of Canadians (53 per cent) don’t know how to tell the difference between a secure and an unsecured public network, and therefore aren’t taking necessary precautions to protect their personal information. And so, most, if not all public Wi-Fi hotspots are considered open networks, which means anyone with the right tools and know how can potentially intercept and access all your information as it travels on that open network. That would include usernames and passwords for email, bank login credentials, social media information can get collected and deciphered which can put you at risk.
What are some safer ways to deal with public Wi-Fi?
If you have a data plan that allows for your online habits, I’d just stick to using it instead of connecting to your local coffee shop Wi-Fi. Same goes for hotels and restaurants, if your own data connection is strong enough and you don’t worry about going over your limit, avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi altogether.
That said, if you have additional tablets and laptops that you are looking to connect, many popular phones now offer the ability to ‘tether’ or enable a ‘personal hotspot’ which allows you to connect any of your other devices to your phone and use its data to connect to the Internet.
Lastly, if you are more concerned about your privacy and are willing to pay a monthly fee, you can avail of paying for a VPN service like NordVPN or TunnelBear VPN. Using a paid VPN service you essentially create a secure tunneled connection from your mobile device to the VPN service giving you the security and privacy if you decide to connect to a public Wi-Fi.