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Consumers’ Perceived Invincibility on Public Wi-Fi Could Be Placing Their Personal Information at Risk

  • Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report reveals 69 percent of Americans believe their personal information is safe when using public Wi-Fi, yet two-thirds act unsafely when online
  • 57 percent of consumers can’t wait more than a few minutes before logging onto a Wi-Fi network once they arrive somewhere new, showing the need to always be connecte

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – July 9, 2017 – Consumers are unable to resist a strong, free Wi-Fi network and their online behaviors may be placing their personal information at risk, according to Norton by Symantec’s (NASDAQ: SYMC) 2017 Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report, released today.

“There is a deep divide between what people think is safe when it comes to using public Wi-Fi versus the reality,” said Fran Rosch, executive vice president, Consumer Business Unit, Symantec. “What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by cybercriminals through unsecure Wi-Fi Networks or even apps with privacy vulnerabilities.”

The Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report surveyed more than 15,000 consumers in 15 countries to learn about their public Wi-Fi practices and perceptions. Many of the global findings show that people are aware of the risks of public Wi-Fi, but are not necessarily changing their behaviors. U.S.-specific highlights include:

Consumers Willing to Sacrifice Security for Free Wi-Fi

Consumers’ dependency on a quick, free connection via public Wi-Fi could be placing their personal information at risk:

  • Seventy-three percent of Americans are not using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to secure their Wi-Fi connections, even though it is considered a best way for protecting personal information
  • Over 60 percent of Gen Z (ages 18-20) in the U.S. say it’s important to use public Wi-Fi so they can post to social media, while 70 percent say it’s important to use public Wi-Fi to avoid draining their data plan. Interestingly, the value of public Wi-Fi varies for Americans over 72, with 59 percent of them wanting to use public Wi-Fi to help ensure someone important to them can reach them.

Questionable Behaviors on Wi-Fi

  • And in the case of using public Wi-Fi for more private matters, joining an unsecure network could reveal more about a person’s personal information (or habits) than they bargained for:
  • Twenty-two percent admit to viewing adult content on public Wi-Fi
    • Of those people, 45 percent admit to doing so at work and 46 percent have done so in a café/restaurant.
  • Thirty-five percent have accessed Wi-Fi without the Wi-Fi network owner’s permission; 12 percent guessed or hacked the password to get in.
  • Ninety-two percent of Americans have potentially put personal information at risk while using public Wi-Fi, including checking their bank accounts, yet 40 percent reported they would feel horrified if their financial details were stolen and published online by hackers.

Wi-Fi Access Also a Must When Traveling

Clearly, Americans are unable to resist access to a strong, free Wi-Fi network despite the risks. This is especially true while traveling, as Americans say access to a strong Wi-Fi network is a deciding factor when choosing a hotel (75 percent), transport hub (44 percent), place to eat (49 percent) or which airline to fly (50 percent). Further, more than half (51 percent) of people surveyed said that the most important reason to stay connected was to use a GPS app to get around.

Help Ensure Your Personal Information Doesn’t Fall into the Wrong Hands

Despite the need for access to a strong, free Wi-Fi connection, there are simple steps consumers can take to help protect their information online:

  • Use Security Software: One of the best ways to protect your information online is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) from a trusted vendor such as Symantec’s Norton Wi-Fi Privacy. VPNs provide a “secure tunnel” that encrypts data being sent and received between your device and the internet.
  • Look for HTTPS: Many companies use secure websites — HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) — to provide online security. You can tell if a website is secure if it has “https” in its URL and has a small lock symbol next to it. However, even though the website itself might be safe, your personal information could be vulnerable if your network connection isn’t secure.
  • Sharing Less is Best: Think twice before entering any type of personal information – from passwords, to financial details and photos – over public Wi-Fi networks. Even if you’re not actively sharing the information, your device may be doing so for you. Many devices are programmed to automatically seek connections to other devices on the same network, which could cause your files to be vulnerable. Be sure to disable sharing on your devices to ensure what’s yours stays yours.

Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report Methodology

The Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report is an online survey of 15,532 adults ages 18+ who use Wi-Fi across 15 countries, commissioned by Norton by Symantec and produced by research firm Reputation Leaders through international online panel company Research Now. The margin of error for the total sample is 0.8 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The U.S. sample reflects input from 1,002 U.S. adults ages 18+ who use Wi-Fi. The margin of error is 3.1 percent for the total U.S. sample. Data was collected from May 18th to June 5th, 2017 by Research Now

About Symantec

Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ: SYMC), the world’s leading cyber security company, helps organizations, governments and people secure their most important data wherever it lives. Organizations across the world look to Symantec for strategic, integrated solutions to defend against sophisticated attacks across endpoints, cloud and infrastructure. Likewise, a global community of more than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock product suites to protect their digital lives at home and across their devices. Symantec operates one of the world’s largest civilian cyber intelligence networks, allowing it to see and protect against the most advanced threats. For additional information, please visit or connect with us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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Symantec Corporation
Spring Harris, (650) 527-0742

Edelman for Symantec
Jenn Foss, (503) 471-6804