Naomi Eide | September 05, 2017

Majority of US working adults use a VPN but still trust public Wi-Fi

Dive Brief:

  • The majority of U.S. working adults have a VPN installed and frequently use it while at home and when traveling, according to a recent report from Wombat Security assessing users' risks online. The research firm based its results on a survey of 2,000 working adults — 1,000 from the U.S. and 1,000 from the U.K. In the U.S., 65% of those surveyed used a VPN on their devices, and only 19% said they didn't know what a VPN was.
  • While more than 40% of U.S. users have a VPN installed on their corporate or personal laptop, VPN use on corporate and personal mobile devices trails computer usage at 29% and 31%, respectively. Two-thirds of U.S. users frequently use VPNs, according to the report.
  • While respondents are employing VPNs, they are still quick to trust public Wi-Fi networks. Wombat Security found many working adults — more than half of those surveyed from the U.S. — trust free Wi-Fi in places such as hotels, local coffee shops or airports.

Dive Insight:

The Wombat report took a look at how users approach risk online, questioning everything from password hygiene to phishing schemes. Based on responses, it is clear that that companies have more work to do educating employees about online habits. No matter where they're located, anyone connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi network risks introducing a cyberthreat to their organization.

Using a VPN is considered a best-practice for personal cybersecurity, serving as a safeguard for those connecting to the internet. For the enterprise, a VPN offers the assurance that proprietary data is securedwhen users access it off-site.

Readily available public Wi-Fi was in part spurred by consumer demand and the rise of connected mobile devices. Rather than relying on data plans alone, consumers and employees alike are quick to hop onto Wi-Fi in public locations.

But tapping in to public Wi-Fi is sure to leave personal information exposed. Or, if a user is on a work device, public Wi-Fi use could leave business data compromised.

Last year, one research firm conducted a test and found that, despite the lack of security, users were quick to use unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots in the Barcelona Airport. A similar test was conducted last July at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland where 68% of people who connected to fake Wi-Fi networks left personal information exposed.