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Protecting Your Personal Data On Wi-Fi Networks

Many consumers recognize the sensitivity of their Wi-Fi password, but "borrowing" unprotected Wi-Fi still prevalent
AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Every day millions of people worldwide take advantage of Wi-Fi technology to connect computing, entertainment and mobile devices. It is important to recognize that connecting to a Wi-Fi network without security protections enabled can put sensitive data at risk. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a global, independent, non-profit trade organization that works to deliver the best possible Wi-Fi connectivity experience, urges consumers to resolve to protect their Wi-Fi networks and devices.


With an estimated 201 million households using Wi-Fi networks(1) and as many as 750,000 Wi-Fi hotspots available worldwide, more personal data is being carried by these networks, making Wi-Fi security paramount in importance.

In a recent poll conducted by Wakefield Research in conjunction with Wi-Fi Alliance, 40 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to trust someone with their house key than with their Wi-Fi network password. More than one quarter of those surveyed said sharing their Wi-Fi network password feels more personal than sharing their toothbrush.

Yet "borrowing" Wi-Fi access is still a somewhat common practice. The poll showed that 32 percent of respondents said they have tried to get on a Wi-Fi network that wasn't theirs - up 18 percent from a December 2008 poll.

"Most consumers know that leaving their Wi-Fi network open is not a good thing, but the reality is that many have not taken the steps to protect themselves," said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance. "Consumers can usually activate Wi-Fi security protections in a few simple steps, but much like the seatbelts in your car, it won't protect you unless you use it."

Here are a few key things that Wi-Fi users can do to secure their Wi-Fi devices and personal data:

-- Set home Wi-Fi networks for WPA2(TM) security - Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) is the latest in network security technology. It controls who connects to the network and encrypts data for privacy. It is important to note that the security level of a home network is determined by the least capable device and many devices ship with security options disabled as the default. For the most up-to-date protection, a network should include only products capable of WPA2 security. -- Look for Wi-Fi CERTIFIED(TM) products - Wi-Fi CERTIFIED devices are required to implement WPA2 security. -- Look for devices with Wi-Fi Protected Setup(TM) - With an action as simple as the push of a button, new devices can be added to an existing network securely. -- Create strong passwords - Ensure that your network password is at least 8 characters long, does not include any dictionary words or personal information, and is a mix of upper and lower case letters and symbols. A tip that might make password management easier is to create an acronym from easy-to-remember phrases. For example, "my daughter's birthday is July 7, 1987" could become the password "MDBi7787." -- Be smart about hotspot use - Most public hotspots leave security protections turned off, so while connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot is great for general internet surfing, users should not transmit sensitive data, such as bank account login information. -- Turn off automatic connecting - Many products such as mobile phones and notebooks are set by default to sense and automatically connect to any available wireless signal. Users should turn off automatic connecting and only connect to and from networks and devices they are familiar with.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has in-depth information regarding security at and consumers can easily search for Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products at to find devices with the latest security protections.

Methodological note:The poll was conducted among 1,054 Americans ages 18+. The interviews were conducted by Wakefield Research between December 10th and December 16th, 2010. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population aged 18 and older. Survey results have a margin of error of 3.02%

About the Wi-Fi Alliance

The Wi-Fi Alliance is a global non-profit industry association of hundreds of leading companies devoted to the proliferation of Wi-Fi technology across devices and market segments. With technology development, market building, and regulatory programs, the Wi-Fi Alliance has enabled widespread adoption of Wi-Fi worldwide.

The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED(TM) program was launched in March 2000. It provides a widely-recognized designation of interoperability and quality, and it helps to ensure that Wi-Fi enabled products deliver the best user experience. The Wi-Fi Alliance has completed more than 9,000 product certifications to date, encouraging the expanded use of Wi-Fi products and services in new and established markets.

Editors' Choice
Kelly Jackson Higgins 2, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading