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WiFi Security Barometer Reveals Large Gap Between What Users Know And What They Do

Only 59 percent of users have implemented passwords meeting basic criteria for strength and privacy
AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Wi-Fi users in the U.S. are confident that they are taking the right steps to protect themselves when using Wi-Fi devices. In fact, 97 percent of Wi-Fi users recently surveyed by Wakefield Research for the Wi-Fi Alliance' report they believe the data on their devices and networks is "safe and secure." However, when asked about which of several recommended steps they have actually taken to protect their Wi-Fi networks or devices, respondents received an overall score of 66 percent, revealing that in practice, users were actually not as safe as they could be.

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Most users (86 percent) have taken basic steps to ensure the privacy and security of their Wi-Fi network by enabling security protections on their access point or router. However, the survey data reveals significant gaps that could lead to a false sense of security. Significantly, only 59 percent of users have implemented passwords meeting basic criteria for strength and privacy.

"We are very pleased to see the increase in security awareness and a rise in some of the basic protection measures such as locking down the home network," said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director of Wi-Fi Alliance. "But consumers can and should do more to protect themselves. We encourage users to put their knowledge into practice and take a few additional steps to more effectively protect themselves at home and on the go."

Other survey findings included:

-- Two out of three Wi-Fi users recognize that responsibility for the security of their data lies with them -- Eighty-five percent of survey respondents understand that their Wi-Fi devices should not be set for automatic sharing, yet only 62 percent actually have auto-sharing turned off -- Only 18 percent of users report that they use a VPN (virtual private network) tool when in a hotspot -- Users who have suffered the effects of a computer virus are no more likely to have better Wi-Fi security behavior than those who have never had any computer viruses -- Users who ranked themselves as "tech-savvy" are no more likely to score better on measures of Wi-Fi security behavior than those who said they are less comfortable with technology

Getting a passing grade on Wi-Fi security can be as simple as A-B-C:

A: Enable WPA2(TM) security on your network and devices. Look for products with Wi-Fi Protected Setup(TM) for simple, easy-to-use steps to enable security.

B: Passwords are in your control. Create a strong Wi-Fi network password that is at least eight characters long and includes a mixture of upper and lower case letters and symbols. It is a good practice to change passwords on a regular basis, perhaps once a year during Cyber Security Month.

C: When on the go, connect to networks you know and trust and turn off automatic sharing on devices so you can control what you connect to and who/what connects to you.

More information about Wi-Fi security, including innovations that make setting up security easier, is available at www.wi-fi.org/security. Users can test their own security knowledge with a quick online quiz, watch animations about home Wi-Fi security, and download white papers with detailed information.

Methodological note: The Wi-Fi Security Barometer Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) between August 12th and August 29th, 2011. For this research, 1,000 interviews were fielded among nationally representative ages 18 and older using random-digit telephone dialing. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population of Wi-Fi users. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of that variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews conducted. For the 1,000 interviews conducted, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than