Consumers will try to connect to any wi-fi network available as long as it's strong, free, and fast, Symantec research has found.
The availability of such wi-fi, according to Symantec, means people will use pretty much anything on it, including corporate credentials and online banking codes, as well as watching adult content.
These behaviours are putting consumers and corporates at risk of credential leaking, it said.
The vendor's 2017 Norton wi-fi risk report [pdf], released yesterday, surveyed more than 15,000 consumers in 15 countries to learn about their public wi-fi practices and perceptions.
Symantec says many of the findings show that people are aware of the risks of public wi-fi, but are not necessarily adapting their behaviour.
Almost all respondents to the survey are acting in a way which could put risk their personal and private information at risk.
“There is a deep divide between what people think is safe or private when using public wi-fi versus the reality,” Nick Shaw, vice president and general manager at Norton by Symantec, said in a statement.
“What someone thinks is private on their personal device can easily be accessed by hackers through unsecure wi-fi networks or even apps with privacy vulnerabilities.”
Symantec found nearly half of consumers won't wait more than a few minutes before logging onto a wi-fi network or asking for the password after arriving at a friend's place, café, hotel or other location.
Twenty-five percent said they have accessed wi-fi without the network owner's permission, and 8 percent guessed or hacked the password to get in.
Further, nearly half (49 percent) of people surveyed said the most important reason to stay connected was to use a GPS or map app to get around.
People aged 18-20 were the most concerned with being able to post on social media, with 44 percent of surveyed respondents citing sharing updates and photos as the most important reason to access public wi-fi.
One in six people admit to using public wi-fi to watch adult content.
While nearly everyone put personal information at risk when using public wi-fi - through things like checking their bank accounts or logging into personal email accounts - 75 percent of respondents said they don't use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure their wi-fi connections, even though it is considered one of the best ways to protect personal information.
The survey found 60 percent of respondents felt their personal information was safe when using public wi-fi.