Wi-Fi data security risks exposed

Some 40 per cent of people who have Wi-Fi at home do not know how to change the security settings on their wireless (Wi-Fi) networks, an online survey commissioned by the Information Commissioner’s Office claims.
To highlight the need for a greater understanding of the security measures available to wireless network owners, the ICO has published new guidance which will help people to better protect themselves against the dangers of cyber crime and identity theft.
The survey, carried out online by YouGov, has also revealed that, despite most ISPs now setting up and installing their customers’ Wi-Fi security settings for them, 16 per cent of the people surveyed with a home Wi-Fi network are do not know if they are using an unsecured network.
The new guidance from the ICO explains how people can check the security settings on their Wi-Fi router and provides information on how to make the network more secure, including setting up a strong password to stop other people accessing the network and making sure the information sent over the device is encrypted.
The ICO is also calling for ISPs, retailers and manufacturers to make sure the guidance supplied with their Wi-Fi equipment is clear to the end user and fully explains the risks of people using an unsecured connection.
Steve Wood, head of policy at the ICO said: “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. 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.”

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