Despite Knowing Risks, People Are Banking and Filing Taxes Over Public Wi-Fi Networks

Hackers can watch your every move over unsecured networks.

Accessing public Wi-Fi networks comes with its risks--hackers snoop on network traffic--but a new study finds 39% of U.S. adults have sent sensitive information, including banking information and social security numbers, over such unsecured networks.

Polling 2,037 adults, a study conducted by Nielsen's Harris Poll for virtual private network company Private WiFi found most people understood such risks, with 88% of respondents mentioning identity theft as a possible threat when using unprotected Wi-Fi networks.

That said, 26% of respondents said they have checked their bank accounts and 19% have paid bills while using public Wi-Fi. In addition, 8% admitted to sending emails containing sensitive information, such as social security numbers or account numbers, over these unprotected networks.

With tax season underway, 6% of respondents said they have also filed their taxes, which contain their social security number, income, and other sensitive information, over public Wi-Fi.

[Image: Flickr user Sébastien Bertrand]

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2 Comments

  • It's not foolproof, but an encrypted SSL connection between the browser and end server would be sufficient to deter most simple network packet inspection from yielding this data, would it not? And I would imagine that the IRS and all credible banks require an SSL connection, do they not? So what extra danger is there with a public wifi connection over the fact that Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and the rest have just as much access to your data?

  • While you can always have a 'man in the middle' attack on a 'closed' connection (like your home connection or your phone), public Wi-Fi exposes your data to every device in that Wi-Fi hotspot. This is the nature of ethernet. SSL is good place to start - I would hope this would become even more ubiquitous . Http just makes it too easy for the crooks and http over public Wi-Fi is like the dessert table at an all-you-can-eat buffet...way too tempting for these weasels to resist.

    BTW - despite the mass hysteria over the NSA and companies 'spying' on your data, most companies are not monitoring client data to skim passwords and private info. They are just providing the infrastructure for the Internet. Do they have 'technical' access, yes - but any legitimate company routinely skimming & harvesting user data would end up in court & out of business pretty quickly.