Are You Reading This On An Insecure Wi-Fi Network?
New research proves Americans have poor online safety habits.
BY Sarah Rense | Mar 31, 2017 | Technology
Once upon an election cycle, a phishing email was sent to Hillary Clinton's campaign chair, John Podesta, who clicked it, releasing tens of thousands of emails to Russian hackers. Lax cybersecurity on multiple fronts was to blame, according to a New York Times investigation, as was a simple typo. Clinton lost the election—the contentious Podesta hack did her no favors—and months later, Sean Spicer is still waving Podesta around as a distraction from the current administration's ties to Russia.
Cybersecurity obviously remains is a hot-button issue. Just this month, the guy who invented the World Wide Web said that lack of control over personal data was one of the three biggest online threats for Internet users. Rightly so, as Pew Research Center just released a new survey on cybersecurity that highlights how varying public knowledge is about many such topics.
Participants were asked to answer 13 questions about cybersecurity, and for each question, "not sure" was an available response. A lot of people were "not sure" about cybersecurity. For instance, 54 percent were "not sure" if the "s" in "https://" indicated information entered into the site was encrypted. (It does.) Seventy-three percent were "not sure" if a botnet is computer network used for criminal purposes. (It is.) However, three-quarters of respondents were able to correctly identify the most secure password.
Wi-fi, that infrastructure which controls most mobile and immobile humans, was one of the more mysterious cybersecurity topics. Most respondents knew that public wi-fi isn't a good place to do sensitive activities like online banking. (That doesn't mean they don't still do it.) Less than half knew that wi-fi is not automatically encrypted on wireless routers—meaning that function hasn't been enabled on routers in all cases. And 70 percent were "not sure" if a VPN keeps wi-fi networks safer. (It does.)
Good wi-fi practices, especially on public wi-fi, include browsing with an "https" extension, like HTTPS for Chrome, or using a free VPN service, like Browsec VPN for Chrome. And, to be extra safe, the same Pew quiz is available here. Study up.