54% of password-protected Wi-Fi hotspots in London and New York can be hacked

Data transmitted over a wireless network can either be encrypted or unencrypted. It appears that the use of open, unprotected Wi-Fi networks has become increasingly popular around the world.

A global study of public Wi-Fi activity in nine major metropolitan areas has revealed how easy it is to see other users’ browsing activity, searches, passwords, videos, emails and other personal information.

The survey was conducted in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Hong Kong, Seoul and Taipei.

The study shows that users in Asia are the most exposed to being hacked via public Wi-Fi networks, with more than 50% of web traffic taking place on unprotected HTTP sites.  In addition, the researchers found that 97% of users in Asia connect to open, unprotected Wi-Fi networks, and seven out of ten password-protected routers use weak encryption methods.

The study also reveals that people all over the world “overwhelmingly prefer” using unsecured, public Wi-Fi networks rather than password-protected networks.

Researchers also discovered that a large proportion of mobile users browse primarily on unsecured HTTP sites – nearly 50% in Asia, approximately 30% in the US and 25% in Europe. Due to the fact that HTTP traffic is unprotected, the researchers were able to access all of the users’ browsing activity, including such data as page history, web searches, personal login information, videos, emails and comments.

Despite the fact that most of the observed Wi-Fi hotspots were protected through some form of encryption, these methods were usually weak and could be easily hacked.

54% of password-protected Wi-Fi hotspots in London and New York were weak and vulnerable to attack.

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