32% of Americans admit to "borrowing" unencrypted WiFi

In what USA Today likens to borrowing a cup of sugar, some 32% of those polled in a national survey admit to mooching off a neighbor’s unecrypted WiFi.

Clearly this whole “borrowing” thing is fast becoming a problem seeing as the number was 18% in 2008, almost doubling in the more recent survey.

Although neighbors do take somewhat of a risk when they open their front door to a neighbor borrowing sugar, there may be a whole other set of risks involved when allowing a neighbor access into your WiFi network.

“People who don’t understand the technology simply have faith,” explained Chet Wisniewski, senior security adviser at network security firm Sophos.

Having an open WiFi connection can also open up your computer to “sniffers,” looking for passwords or sensitive financial information.

The ubiquity of open WiFi networks at places like McDonalds and Panera may provide users with a false sense of comfort that these connections are indeed safe.

“The reality is that many consumers have not taken the steps to protect themselves,” said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director at the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non-profit trade group that commissioned the surveys.

“Most public hotspots leave security protections turned off, so while connecting to a public WiFi hotspot is great for general internet surfing, users should not transmit sensitive data, such as bank account login information… [And], much like the seatbelts in your car, [WiFi security] won’t protect you unless you use it.”

So, remember to password protect your WiFi connection to keep out unwanted visitors and snoops.

(Via Ars Technica