Two-out-of-three New Zealanders think their personal data is safe when they use public wi-fi hotspots. Roughly the same number use hotspots regardless of the consequences. Hardly any users know if they are transmitting data safely when using public wi-fi. These are some of the finding of Symantec’s 2017 Wi-fi Risk Survey.

Wi-fi is popular. Symantec found a little over half of all New Zealanders ask for a wi-fi password when at locations such as a friends house, hotel or café. Almost a third ask for that password within minutes of arriving.

Symantec territory manager Mark Gorrie says the attitudes are out of touch with reality and people often put their personal information at risk. He says 84 percent of people will use public wi-fi to check their bank details online.

Gorrie says sites masquerading as legitimate hotspots often set up to lure users and collect private information. It’s not always known what they do with the information, not every collector has a criminal intent.

One of the strangest findings is that many users think they can tell if the apps they use are secure when transmitting data on wi-fi. Gorrie points out that even security experts have no way of knowing this unless they use sophisticated tools to monitor traffic.

Symantec’s angle on this is that the company sells virtual private network software that can make wi-fi use considerably more secure. Gorrie says he recommends this for anyone who may use sensitive information over a wi-fi connection. However, he says users who don’t want to go that far should just be more careful about the information they share on public hotspots and make sure their devices are not set to auto-connect when they find an unknown hotspot.