Study Reveals Americans Playing Russian Roulette With Their Personal Data By Blindly Accessing Public Wi-Fi

Research commissioned by BullGuard reveals 76% of consumers risk identity theft and sacrifice privacy in their quest to use free public Wi-Fi; Many consumers unwittingly access unsecure public W-Fi every day, leaving their confidential, personal data exposed while online
SAN FRANCISCO – AUGUST 13, 2019 – Amid a ballooning wave of identity theft and privacy-related breaches, new research of 2,000 American consumers commissioned by cybersecurity company, BullGuard, revealed 76% of individuals queried use unprotected public Wi-Fi, with 54% of those respondents saying they use it once a month or more. This focus on convenience puts them, and the security and privacy of their most sensitive personal data, at significant risk. Unbeknownst to most consumers, hackers can easily spoof and set up malicious open Wi-Fi networks that appear to be legitimate (e.g. ‘Free Airport Wi-Fi’), but instead intercept and record people’s intimate personal data, allowing them to steal usernames, passwords, credit card details, bank account information and more.

“Americans are playing Russian Roulette with their personal data and privacy, opting for convenience over safety when using public Wi-Fi,” said Paul Lipman, CEO of BullGuard. “The research findings clearly indicate Americans do not feel safe online, yet they are ignoring their fears and risking identity and financial theft, account fraud and more in their quest to use public Wi-Fi. Accessing public Wi-Fi without the use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is akin to driving your car without insurance – sooner or later you’re going to end up paying the price for being negligent.”

Many consumers access websites and share highly confidential, personal data, even though they spend little to no time verifying whether the Wi-Fi they are connecting to is legitimate. Nearly half (42%) of US survey respondents who access public Wi-Fi on a daily basis log into personal accounts that require a password, 26% use credit cards and 32% log into their online bank account – exactly the type of personal data and information hackers look to steal and exploit. Shockingly – and very much at odds with their actual behavior – a majority of Americans are enormously concerned about security and privacy with more than half (53%) stating they know their data is less secure when using an open Wi-Fi network. Additionally, 71% of daily public Wi-Fi users admit to being afraid their devices will be hacked and their personal information stolen. US consumers worry most about the security of their banking information (64%), passwords (59%) and email content (30%).

A VPN is a highly effective, easy way for consumers to protect themselves online when using public Wi-Fi from their smartphone, tablet or laptop. The VPN creates a secure connection tunnel between a consumer’s device(s) and the websites and services they access online to safeguard their data and privacy when accessing open Wi-Fi networks, such as when working from a coffee shop, logging into online banking accounts from an airport, hotel or inflight or shopping online.

Alarmingly, the research study showed that even if consumers believe they are protected when using open Wi-Fi networks, they are unsure how to keep themselves safe when using public Wi-Fi, with almost half of all respondents (44%) believing antivirus or anti-malware will prevent their personal data from being intercepted while using an open Wi-Fi network. “While antivirus software is essential for detecting and removing malware from your PC, smartphone and tablet devices, it offers no protection from having your personal data intercepted by a malicious hotspot,” stated Lipman.

The study further revealed that 55% of American consumers do not use a VPN, with 63% saying they think it is “too complicated” or that they “don’t know how to use one”. “BullGuard VPN is easy to use and designed for general consumers. It doesn’t require technical knowledge and the monthly cost to lock down your privacy is literally cents per day– you simply install it on your device(s) and it works 24/7, giving you peace of mind that hackers are blocked from gaining access to your personal data and your online behavior is not being tracked,” added Lipman.

The top activities carried out by US consumers while connected to public Wi-Fi networks are:
  1. Logging into a personal email account (44%)
  2. Using social media or any other account with automatic login credentials (42%)
  3. Logging into any account requiring a password (38%)
  4. Logged into any work resource (25%)
  5. Filling in forms with personal details - e.g. name, address, date of birth, telephone number (23%)
  6. Online banking (21%)
The most popular places US consumers state they use public Wi-Fi networks are:
  1. Hotels (50%)
  2. Coffee shops/restaurants (48%)
  3. Hospital (35%)
  4. Airport (34%)
  5. Work (32%)
  6. Library (32%)
A press kit including data visualization, logos and other assets related to the research study can be accessed here.

About BullGuard
BullGuard is a multi-award winning, consumer cybersecurity company. We make it simple to protect everything in your digital life – from your data, to your identity, to your Smart Home. The BullGuard product portfolio extends to PCs, tablets and smartphone protection, and includes internet security, comprehensive mobile security, 24/7 identity protection and VPN, which provides the highest levels of privacy and protection. BullGuard released the world’s first IoT vulnerability scanner and leads the consumer cybersecurity industry in providing continuous innovation. Dojo by BullGuard is an award-winning intelligent defense system and service that provides the highest level of protection to consumers across all of their connected devices and smart homes. Dojo by BullGuard is the cornerstone of a Smart Home, ensuring a connected world where every consumer in every home, is smart, safe and protected.

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Media Contacts:
Mindy M. Hull
Mercury Global Partners for BullGuard
+1 415 889 9977
Kayla Bortak
Mercury Global Partners for BullGuard
+1 305 697 0027
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