Anti-virus software company Avast conducted an experiment at the Republican National Convention over the past few days to see just how many people would connect to fake, and potentially dangerous, Wi-Fi networks they had set up.
The company set up fake Wi-Fi names that included “Google Starbucks”, “Trump free Wifi”, and “Hillary Free Wifi” before monitoring how many people in the local area, including at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, connected to the unsecured networks.
The experiment received over 1,200 connections, with 68.3% of people leaving their personal information completely exposed, whilst 44.5% of those connected accessed their emails or messages on the unsecure line.
6.5% of those connected went shopping on Amazon, whilst 1.2% accessed their online banking. 5.1% also played Pokemon Go, while another 4.2% visited a government website or domain of some sort.
Also, 0.7% used a dating app, such as Tinder, Grindr, or OKCupid, and 0.24% visited pornographic websites.
“With Washington heatedly discussing cybersecurity issues virtually every week, we thought it would be interesting to test how many people actually practice secure habits,” said Avast’s mobile president Gagan Singh in an email.
“Understanding the talking points behind these privacy issues is very different from implementing secure habits on a daily basis. Though it is not surprising to see how many people connect to free Wi-Fi, especially in a location with large crowds such as this, it is important to know how to stay safe when connecting,” he explained. “When joining public Wi-Fi, consumers should utilize a VPN service that anonymizes their data while connecting to public hotspots to ensure that their connection is secure.”
In order to protect people’s privacy, Avast claims that they did not collect or store any of the user information that they gathered during the experiment.