Risky Brits saving money by ‘borrowing’ Wi-Fi

A fresh piece of research has found that one in seven people in the UK have ‘borrowed’ someone else’s Wi-Fi because they can’t afford their own internet connection.

‘Borrowing’, as defined by the research – which was carried out by Santander – means sneaking onto a neighbour’s Wi-Fi connection (without permission) in 5% of cases (and 14% of cases when considering 18 to 34-year-olds).

A further 5% of those surveyed had gone into a cafe or shop with free Wi-Fi just to use the internet, without purchasing anything (11% for 18 to 34-year-olds). And 3% said they’d simply jumped onto an unknown (and obviously insecure) Wi-Fi connection that they’d stumbled on when out and about.

People do have concerns about the security of public Wi-Fi – indeed data security was a worry for 52% of respondents – but the need to get online overrides any fears in a good number of cases.

Santander found that 17% of those who had security concerns were still willing to use a public Wi-Fi hotspot if they had to do something important, like checking Facebook (ahem) – or downloading shop or restaurant discount codes. Furthermore, 19% of folks would happily use an unsecured Wi-Fi network for work purposes.

Major risks

Matt Hall, Head of Banking and Unsecured Credit at Santander, commented: “Mobile phones are such an important part of life these days, but many people appear to struggle with the associated costs. While ‘piggy-backing’ someone else’s Wi-Fi might seem like a good way to save a few pounds, consumers are risking their online security by doing so.

“Whether it’s a private or a public connection, we urge internet users not to make financial transactions using unsecured networks.”

Hall added: “And a final word of caution – consumers should be aware that borrowing Wi-Fi without permission is potentially a criminal offence.”

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).