Lax security on home wi-fi means that nearly half of all wireless networks can be hacked into in less than five seconds, according to a study cited by Sky News UK today.
Of the 40,000 networks identified in six UK cities, just under 20,000 had no password or the most basic form of security encryption, research for card protection and insurance company CPP found.
In the “ethical hacking” experiment, researchers spent half an hour in each city using freely available software to work on as many unsecured wireless connections as possible.
Almost a quarter of the private networks – 9,249 – had no password, despite 82 per cent of Britons believing their network is secure.
But, the study found, even password-protected networks were not safe, with hackers able to breach a typical password in seconds.
The hackers were also able to “harvest” usernames and passwords at a rate of more than 350 an hour when sitting in town-centre coffee shops and restaurants.
“This report is a real eye-opener in highlighting how many of us have a cavalier attitude to wi-fi use, despite the very real dangers posed by unauthorised use,” CPP identity fraud expert Michael Lynch said.
Jason Hart, the hacker who carried out the experiments and the senior vice president of digital identity company CryptoCard, said: “When people think of hackers they tend to think of highly organised criminal gangs using sophisticated techniques to crack networks.
“However, as this experiment demonstrates, all a hacker requires is a laptop computer and widely available software to target their victims.”