Eighty four per cent of Kiwis take significant security risks such as transmitting personal and financial information when using public Wi-Fi, according to a new Norton survey.
Use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect personal information is low, at just 14 per cent, compared with the global average of 26 per cent, the survey of over 1000 people found - 43 per cent of Kiwi respondents had never even heard of a VPN.
Mark Gorrie, territory manager of the consumer business unit of Symantec, said the survey showed Kiwis love their free public Wi-Fi, perhaps because of the cost of mobile data, but were seemingly unaware of the risks of using it.
A range of man-in-the-middle and sniffing attacks can be used to intercept and capture private information on public Wi-Fi networks.
"There is a deep divide between what New Zealanders think is safe when it comes to using public Wi-Fi versus the reality," Gorrie said.
Norton, a division of ICT security company Symantec, found 64 per cent of New Zealand users logged into private email while on public Wi-Fi, 58 per cent logged into social media accounts and 35 per cent checked their bank accounts or accessed financial information.
Twenty three per cent logged into other accounts using a password and 19 per cent similarly logged into work email accounts.
Meanwhile, 66 per cent of respondents felt their information was safe when using public network connections compared with 33 per cent who felt it was unsafe.
Eighty five per cent could not tell whether their apps were transmitting information securely and eight per cent of Kiwis admitted accessing adult content on public Wi-Fi (lower than the global average of 16 per cent).
Gorrie recommended users be sparing when entering or transmitting any type of personal information over public Wi-Fi, look for encrypted services (https) and use security software and VPNs.
Symantec conducted its survey across 15 countries in May.