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UK Survey: 40% Don't Understand Wi-Fi Security Settings


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Also discovers that 16% with a home Wi-Fi network are either unsure or are already aware that they are using an unsecured network.

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the independent body set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, has released the results of a survey that proves just how many innocent people are likely to find themselves unfairly punished by the soon-to-be implemented Digital Economy Act.

According to the online survey of some 1998 adults, 40% of those that have a Wi-Fi connection in their house don't understand how to change their security settings.

It "also revealed that, despite most internet service providers now setting up and installing their customers' Wi-Fi security settings for them, 16% of the people surveyed with a home Wi-Fi network are either unsure or are already aware that they are using an unsecured network," says the ICO.

Why does this matter? Well, aside from the usual concerns like cyber crime and identity theft, the country's Digital Economy Act will eventually mandates the termination of Internet connections repeatedly accused of illegal file-sharing. With such a large percentage either unaware of how to secure their connections, or simply unconcerned, it's likely that a good number of people will be falsely accused of illegal behavior and may unintentionally suffer the consequences.

"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," says Steve Wood, Head of Policy at the ICO. "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."

The ICO is asking that ISPs, wireless router retailers and manufacturers offer enough guidance and technical support to make sure that Wi-Fi users are fully aware of the risks of using an unsecured connection, and have access to the information necessary to remedy the problem.

"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," adds Wood. 'Today's new guidance aims to get people thinking about whether they are doing enough to ensure their wireless networks are secure."

In late 2009 UK ISP Talk Talk conducted a physical Wi-Fi survey in central Ealing in West London and found that 41% of 1,083 Wi-Fi networks were vulnerable to hijacking and illegal use.

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