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The BBC reports that there is currently one Wi-Fi hotspot for every 150 people in the world, but these unmonitored hotspots can potentially cause problems, experts have warned.
ESET security expert Mark James highlighted that people’s desire for a ‘free lunch’ shouldn’t cloud their judgement when it comes to security and privacy issues, especially in cases where home broadband solutions are opened up to subscribers on the same provider: “I think it opens a few big security questions, like who is responsible for the router that is hosting the Wi-Fi spot? Has the end user done all they can to ensure that the default passwords are changed and that their device has not been compromised? Has the owner of the router been fully informed on how to opt-out if they so wish?” explained James. “Open Wi-Fi spots are a breeding ground for malware, and mobile security is becoming a much bigger concern.”
James warned that with the smartphone and tablet usage on the rise, mobile platforms are just as viable a target for malware as desktop computers, if not more so: “Often the end user does not see a mobile device as a security hazard in the same way they might view a desktop, but if you log the time people spend on each, you would probably find that mobile wins. Operating System updates and application updating is part of desktop life, but when was the last time you checked your mobile phone to see if the software could be updated?”
The Independent estimates that there will be 47.7 million public hotspots in the world by the end of the year, with France having the most, followed by the USA and United Kingdom. By 2018, the number of hotspots is expected to reach one for every four Americans.
“Virtually everything we do these days requires internet access, and we strive for 100% coverage, often looking for internet availability before anything else and that reinforces the need for increased security,” warned James. “Free Wi-Fi is great for keeping up with Facebook or email, but the amount of information being exchanged is frightening. The Wi-Fi on the London Underground train network reportedly consumes more than 3TB per day,” he added.
Author Alan Martin, ESET