By Claire West

One in six (16%) people leave their wireless router unprotected

One in nine (11%) admit to hijacking someone else’s Wi-Fi connection

With all major providers now providing a wireless router with their packages, wireless broadband is becoming increasingly popular leaving Brits open to ‘piggybacking’, according to research from moneysupermarket.com.

Piggybacking is where broadband users connect to someone else’s wireless router to gain access to the internet for free, with the potential to steal bank details, identity information or even downloading illegal content through the owner’s connection.

The research shows over 3.5 million adults (11 per cent) have used someone else’s wireless internet connection without permission in the past 12 months. The results also show people are doing little to protect themselves, with one in six (16 per cent) failing to put a password on their connection.

James Parker, commercial manager for broadband and mobiles at moneysupermarket.com, said: “One in nine people using another person’s Wi-Fi is a staggering amount, you wouldn’t expect that many people to go into a neighbour’s house and use their shower. This is a worrying trend and shows some people have no conscience when sitting in front of their monitor behind closed doors.

“The consequences can be severe. It’s bad enough your neighbours can use your internet connection freely, but this becomes far more threatening if someone uses your connection for criminal or improper activity. This could be accessing your internet connection to download obscene material, gathering personal information to defraud you or even stealing your identity.”

It’s not just security risks people face as 37 per cent of broadband deals impose a download cap, which could mean additional charges if the limit is exceeded. Of those who admit to piggybacking nearly half (46 per cent) say they check emails and do some browsing and an unrelenting 12 per cent hijack someone else’s wireless connection everyday, downloading films and music regularly.

Parker added: “If people aren’t careful, they could unwittingly find a huge bill landing on their doorstep for going over the download cap imposed by their provider. More and more providers offer routers with broadband packages and the range of the signal is increasing. People need to be aware just how important protection is and the best way to do it.

“People are learning to be safe online but those using wireless can undo all that by leaving their network unprotected. An unsecured internet connection is just the same as leaving your front door open.”

moneysupermarket.com’s top tips to beat the broadband pirates:

• Password protect your wireless internet connection with non-dictionary words and numbers

• Check that your router uses WPA rather than WEP encryption

• Know your download limit and what that translates to (i.e. 5 music albums)

• Make sure you have appropriate security software and firewall

• If you have children, consider using parental controls as well as password protection for the router.

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