Would you want to be fined and cautioned for the actions of other people? An article in the technology section of the Times states the following:
“More than half of computer users have illegally logged on to someone else’s wi-fi connection yet only 11 people have been arrested for the crime, an investigation by The Times has found. “Wi-fi tapping” or “piggybacking” has boomed in the past few years as hackers take advantage of unsecured computers to access the internet without paying for it. Police regard it as a serious offence because intruders can download pornographic materials and illegal images without being caught. Only the legitimate holder of the wi-fi account is likely to be tracked down. Officers are also worried that criminals can use unsecured wireless connections to steal personal details such as passwords and credit card numbers and use them to commit identity theft.” Read the rest of the report by clicking here.
The issue here is that a surprising number of people are leaving their wireless internet networks poorly protected and in some cases, with no password at all. In these situations people with wireless cards in computers within reach of the network will be able to log on and use the internet if they know what they are doing.This is a real problem for those of us who use wireless internet in our homes. Other people accessing your wireless internet will potentially
- view files on your computer;
- slow down your Internet performance;
- show records of the websites you are looking at;
- allow download of files and material that should not be downloaded (but will be logged by your ISP (internet service provider)).
- use up bandwidth allowance (if it is restricted);
- read your emails and copy usernames and passwords;
- send spam emails;
There are ways to protect your network, here are some useful sites:
- Microsoft have some information for their Windows customers here.
- Apple have some information for their OSX customers worth reading here.
- Wikipedia will tell you more about your MAC address and WEP and WPA.
WPA (and WPA2) is more secure than WEP, so use WPA or WPA2. Also restrict access to your network to MAC addresses for your own computers. This will help.
I’ll be talking about some of the above as a guest on BBC Essex’s Dave Monk Show today at 11.50am. Tune in on 103.5 or 95.3 FM in Essex, or via the web. I wrote a blog entry back in 2004 about how to listen to BBC Essex via the web, here it is.
Update: Listen to the bit of the show I was on.