The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has revealed that 40% of people in the UK who have Wi-Fi at home do not know how to change the security settings.
The survey was carried out by YouGov and identified that 16% of people with Wi-Fi at home were either unsure or already aware that they were using an unsecured network.
The ICO, in an attempt to combat this, has released new guidance with the aim to help people protect themselves against the risk of cyber crime and identity theft through unsecured Wi-Fi connections
"People wouldn't go out and leave their front door unlocked, but many are still surfing the internet without adequate protection for their personal information." Steve Wood, Head of Policy at the ICO, said "The fact that Google's Street View cars were able to pick up payload data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks as a by-product of their signals mapping exercise has further highlighted that more people need to take their Wi-Fi security settings seriously.
Leaving your Wi-Fi connection unsecured allows people easy access to your network. This increase in traffic could reduce the speed of your connection or cause you to exceed a data cap imposed by the service provider.
However even more worryingly, it also leaves you open to the actions of rogue individuals who may be using your Wi-Fi to carry out potentially criminal actions without your knowledge. Today's new guidance aims to get people thinking about whether they are doing enough to ensure their wireless networks are secure."
The ICO says that the majority of broadband ISPs now setup and install their customers' Wi-Fi security settings for them, although this only applies if the package comes with a preconfigured router.
Many routers do not ship with the toughest WPA2 encryption enabled by default, which could cause compatibility problems but is also a security risk; WEP was cracked a long time ago and WPA is not perfect.
ISPs, retailers and manufacturers have been called on by the ICO to make sure that the guidance supplied with Wi-Fi equipment is clear and fully explains the risks of using an unsecured connection.
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