How can you tell if someone’s really your friend in today’s connected world? Here’s a hint: You know their Wi-Fi password.
At least, that’s according to new statistics from Wakefield Research and the Wi-Fi Alliance. In the survey, which polled 1,054 people between December 10 and December 16 of 2010, around 40 percent of those responding indicated that they would rather entrust someone with a key to their house than the passkey to their Wi-Fi network.
Or, to borrow a phrase from a statement released by the Wi-Fi Alliance, “More than one quarter of those surveyed said sharing their Wi-Fi network password feels more personal than sharing their toothbrush.”
But for all the privacy and security that people seem to assign to their own Wi-Fi networks, that does little to stop the average American from hopping on someone else’s Wi-Fi network. Additional survey results released show that 32 percent of those polled have no problem whatsoever hopping on any Wi-Fi network that’s in range of a compatible device—whether they have an understanding with the network’s owner or otherwise.
And this prevalence toward, “It’s there; I’ll use it” is on the rise—a December 2008 poll indicated that only 18 percent of respondents felt comfortable connecting up to unknown, open wireless networks.
“Most consumers know that leaving their Wi-Fi network open is not a good thing, but the reality is that many have not taken the steps to protect themselves,” said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, in a statement. “Consumers can usually activate Wi-Fi security protections in a few simple steps, but much like the seatbelts in your car, it won’t protect you unless you use it.”
So what, then, should one do? Naturally, the Wi-Fi Alliance has a few helpful steps for those looking to give their wireless network the same protection and security as their house. This includes looking for devices that use Wi-Fi Protected Setup, under the assumption that it’s a lot easier for an average consumer to hit a button that automatically configures a device for one’s wireless security settings than fiddle around in arcane configuration screens.
But, to that, the Wi-Fi Alliance also suggests that consumers use strong passwords and WPA2 security settings to lock down their home networks. And consumers should also turn off the their mobile devices’ ability to automatically connect to open networks—why ask to use someone else’s toothbrush if you don’t have to?