Gen-Y careless in wi-fi use?

The latest Security Index survey by Unisys says the 18-34 age group is most likely to use public wi-fi, yet this group is also the most concerned about security

In delivering the results of its latest twice-yearly Security Index survey, Unisys highlights the increasing scale of public wi-fi use, particularly by New Zealanders in the 18-34 age-group.

They are more likely to use free public wi-fi than any other age group, the survey finds, with almost half (45 percent) of respondents saying they have used free public wi-fi in the last year.

“In the survey, 15 percent of 18-34 year olds said they had performed work-related activities on free public wi-fi networks in the last year, twice as many as those aged 35 and over (7 percent),” Unisys says.

However, this age group also show the most concern about security. “Seventy percent of New Zealanders aged 18-34 years surveyed said they are extremely or very concerned about unauthorised access to their personal information.”

The two findings, the company implies, form something of a paradox.

Unisys goes on to advise careless young wi-fi users of appropriate precautions, such as locking portable devices with a frequently-changed password, using a virtual private network to shield business data from wireless intrusion and ensuring no-one is looking over their shoulder.

However, a Unisys spokesman acknowledges that the survey did not ask how many of the 18-34 year-old wi-fi users are already taking such precautions.

Asked by Computerworld whether the facts as presented necessarily imply a problem, he cites last year’s survey, which showed “59 percent of New Zealanders [of all ages] never secure their mobiles, PDAs or smartphones by using, and regularly changing, a password or PIN. Only 18 percent said they always secured their mobile devices.”

The 2010 survey did show a slight bias towards lack of attention by 18-34-year-olds, further analysis requested by Computerworld shows. “Those aged 18-34 years are less likely to take precautions (62 percent [not taking adequate care]) than the average (59 percent) and significantly less than those aged 35-49 years (52 percent),” says a follow-up email from Unisys.

“They are slightly more likely to take precautions than those aged 50+years (63 percent) but that could be because those aged 50+ years don’t use mobile devices or the internet as much as younger people.”

The overall Security Index, which also takes into account non-technology-related fears such as the perception of the likelihood of a terrorist attack, is the highest since the survey began, in 2006, says Unisys – a high number indicates a high level of concern about security failures.

However, at 144, the index is only slightly higher than the May 2011 figure of 141; the big rise in concern was between November 2010 and May 2011.

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