Despite a saturation of headlines of breaches and vulnerabilities in the cyber-ecosystem, Americans are still leaving their information vulnerable, according to a SecureAuth survey on perceptions around Internet speed versus personal security and online behavior over public WiFi.
The survey found that Americans, if given the choice, would rather improve personal online security (57 percent) over Internet speed (43 percent), but the demographics appear more complicated—more than half of millennials (54 percent) would rather improve their Internet speed than their personal online security.
"If I am an attacker, I want to go to a place where I have easy access to a network, and there are a large number of users interacting with it," Craig Lund, CEO of SecureAuth, told eWEEK. "Much like a pickpocket would target a highly trafficked and noisy public area to increase his or her chances of success, the same goes for public WiFi."
The unsecured nature of WiFi, he said, means there is no control over who is connecting to the network and what they are doing with it, and that traffic can be intercepted easily by malicious users.
"The next time users consider sharing personally identifiable information on public WiFi, they might want to think twice and consider the risks they are taking," Lund said.
The survey indicated Americans as a whole are still disclosing personally identifiable information over public WiFi, such as their address (44 percent), their credit card number (32 percent), their account passwords (29 percent), their Social Security number (16 percent) and their driver’s license number (15 percent).
"Avoid use of public WiFi wherever possible and when using public WiFi, avoid sharing sensitive data," Lund cautioned. "If you must use a public WiFi, ensure that Websites you deal with use security best practices. You can do this by checking that the Website begins with "https" in the web browser.
Another option is to use the Tor browser, which encrypts local traffic much like a virtual private network (VPN) would. "There new stories of breaches almost every day, and attackers are going after everything from credit card information to healthcare records, which provide a nice price on the dark Web," Lund said.
While male respondents to the poll are split fairly evenly between personal online security (51 percent) and speed (49 percent), significantly more women care about online security (62 percent) versus speed (38 percent).
The survey also indicated education matters—63 percent of college graduates care about security, versus 47 percent of high school graduates.