WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The use of open WiFi Internet services can give hackers an easy way to steal passwords and other private information, a British company says.
The theft of such information is made easy through the use of a free program called Firesheep, which has been downloaded more than a million times in the past year, USA Today reported.
"People who don't understand technology simply have faith," their accounts won't be hacked, said Chet Wisniewski, senior security adviser at Sophos, a network security firm based in Abingdon England, which has its North American headquarters in Burlington, Mass.
"With Firesheep, almost anyone can effectively hack into your Facebook, Twitter and other accounts," said Randy Abrams, with the anti-virus firm ESET. "Almost anyone has the skill to use Firesheep to be a nosy neighbor."
About 32 percent of those responding to a recent national survey said they used a neighbor's unencrypted WiFi connection. That's nearly twice the number who did so in 2008, the report said.
American firms such as Starbucks and Panera Bread also offer open WiFi connections.
"The reality is that many consumers have not taken the steps to protect themselves," said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director at the WiFi Alliance, a non-profit trade group that commissioned the surveys.