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Kaspersky Lab: A Quarter of Wi-Fi Hotspots Are Unsecured

Over a quarter of Wi-Fi hotspots around the world are unsecured and pose a major risk to users’ data, according to new research from Kaspersky Lab.

The Russian AV vendor analyzed info on over 31 million such hotspots worldwide and discovered that 25% have no encryption or password protection of any kind – leaving them wide open to abuse by cyber-criminals.

A further 3% are running WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) to encrypt data, but this outdated platform can be cracked within minutes, the vendor claimed.

As for the remaining 72% of Wi-Fi-hotpots, they run the harder-to-hack Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) protocol. However, they’re still vulnerable to hackers if the password isn’t strong enough, or if it’s publicly available in a shared location like a café or airport.

In fact, as we approach the busy holiday season, travelers would be minded not to use such public hotspots to access any online accounts, as hackers might be ready to pounce.

Kaspersky Lab claimed that the top 20 countries with the highest percentage of non-encrypted Wi-Fi hotspots include many popular tourist destinations such as Thailand, France, and the US.

The vendor’s anti-virus expert, Denis Legezo, urged consumers to remain vigilant when using Wi-Fi out and about.

“Don’t use hotspots without passwords and don’t use public hotspots to perform high-risk activities such as online banking or shopping, logging on to sites or for transferring confidential information,” he advised.

“If that sort of traffic is intercepted by a third party, it could result in serious losses, including financial ones. And of course, we strongly recommend using additional measures to protect traffic, such as Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology.”

It’s not clear the message is getting through, however, with another study by the Russian AV firm claiming 71% of consumers use insecure public Wi-Fi in cafés, bars and fast food restaurants, and 15% use it to shop, bank, or make payments online.

Just 13% said they use a VPN – something all businesses should provide for their mobile workforce today.

The study echoes similar findings from iPass earlier this month, which claimed that nearly half (42%) of mobile workers still access corporate networks via free Wi-Fi hotspots.

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