Free public Wi-Fi a bane for cybersecurity: security firm

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 11 2017 11:53 PM

Among the biggest security risks for computer and mobile users is free Wi-Fi and people's lack of a cybersecurity solution, said a cybersecurity firm.

In a consumer-security risk survey conducted in 2016, Kaspersky Lab found that while people are concerned about data safety, many continue to use free public Wi-Fi for important transactions, which opens them up to security risks.

This can be a concern in the Philippines, especially as government promised to make free public Wi-Fi available around the country. 

Free public Wi-Fi was rolled out in several areas in Metro Manila last year, including the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, Philippine Coconut Authority, Social Security System office, Land Transportation Office, and the Rizal Park in Manila.

Free Wi-Fi may also be available in MRT stations, if government deals push through.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said they use insecure public Wi-Fi in cafés, bars, and fast-food restaurants. About 31 percent send and receive files over free Wi-Fi, while 30 percent use online messengers or make video calls, and 15 percent use it to shop, transact with their bank, or make online payments.

Only 13 percent of those surveyed said they connect to free Wi-Fi using a virtual private network (VPN), which can help ensure the privacy of transactions made over a public network.

Besides doing important transactions over public networks, people also expose themselves to digital threats by neglecting to install a security solution on all their devices, using insecure ways to remember passwords, and disclosing personal information online.

Online dangers can have “severe consequences” to private data, said Kaspersky, as people’s information can be stolen or compromised through malware and ransomware.

Security is important, the company said in its survey, particularly as a large chunk of online transactions have to do with online shopping and financial activities, as well as e-mail and social media browsing, which require the transmission of important personal information through the Internet.

Mobile devices are left least protected against online dangers, Kaspersky said, with only 53 percent of users installing security software on their smartphones. More people, though, protected their tablets (57 percent) and computers (88 percent).

Passwords, however, remain a popular way to protect devices. Close to 71 percent said they protect all their Internet-connected devices with a password.

Kaspersky Lab’s study was conducted by B2B International through an online survey in August 2016. Respondents from 21 countries, excluding China, were included — a total of 12,546 people, aged 16 and older, and split equally between men and women.