Nearly half of home wi-fi networks can be hacked in less than five seconds, according to a study carried out across UK cities.
In a recent "ethical hacking experiment" conducted by card and identity protection company CPP, the researchers spent half an hour in each city using freely available software to use as many unsecured wireless connections as possible.
The study found that quarter (9,249) of home wi-fi networks had no password and were completely unsecured, despite 82 per cent of Britons believing their network is secure.
40,000 wi-fi networks were probed across six UK cities, according to a Press Association report, and a further quarter of these had a basic password but it was hacked in a matter of a few seconds.
CPP identity fraud expert Michael Lynch said: ''This report is a real eye-opener in highlighting how many of us have a cavalier attitude to wi-fi use, despite the very real dangers posed by unauthorised use.
''We urge all wi-fi users to remember that any information they volunteer through public networks can easily be visible to hackers. It's vital they remain vigilant, ensure their networks are secure and regularly monitor their credit reports and bank statements for unsolicited activity.''
The experiment means that half the networks examined were breached instantly or near enough instantly by CPP's ethical hacker, a chap called Jason Hart.
Hart told the Press Association: "When people think of hackers they tend to think of highly organised criminal gangs using sophisticated techniques to crack networks. However, as this experiment demonstrates, all a hacker requires is a laptop computer and widely available software to target their victims."
The study also set up a fake wi-fi network outside a café, and watched as over 200 people logged on inside an hour, without thinking about whether the network actually belonged to the café. Hart was able to monitor exactly what these surfers were up to, what passwords they entered and so forth.
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