London hailed as wireless world capital

London has been named "wireless capital of the world" by a new study that pitted it against the number of wireless networks available in major cities globally.

The study carried by RSA found "exponential" growth in the availability of wireless broadband networks over the past year. The London total increased by 260 per cent, from 2,747 in 2006 to 7,130 in 2007. This compared with a 57 per cent increase the year before.

These figures mean that London surpassed New York's 6,371 available networks, and Paris with 825.

It's not all good news, however. The study found 18 per cent of wireless networks were completely unsecured. While this represented an improvement on the figure of 23 per cent recorded a year ago, it still meant that one in five networks were wide open for the fraudulent gathering of data.

When it comes to public hotspots, RSA counts 461 in London, but it also highlighted a lack of clarity about their provision of wireless services. It complained there is no formal recognition of a hotspot owner and no true indication of its legitimacy. In particular, it says, blanket wi-fi coverage brings greater risk of rogue hotspots harvesting data from the unsuspecting user.

"Many commercial establishments have embraced wireless for its benefits without proper consideration of the threats and potential risks it introduces," warned the company.

Other findings include the fact that 48 per cent of the secure access points in London had implemented advanced forms of encryption. This compares with 41 per cent for Paris, and 49 per cent for New York.

The figures broadly echo the findings of Kaspersky and its WarDriving exercise in London.