Blame Wireless!

from the evidence-please? dept

What is it with new technologies where some people are so quick to blame new technologies without ever (not once) coming up with any evidence that there’s actually a problem. Last week we had that completely made up story suggesting that people stealing credit card numbers with cameraphones was a big problem, when there was absolutely no evidence anywhere that it had happened. Now, we have one about the horrors of leaving your WiFi unprotected. Just like the cameraphone story, this one includes a single anecdotal story about someone who thinks they had money stolen from them due to an open WiFi network, though it seems unlikely. The woman claims that it must be because of the WiFi, even though the likelihood of her credit card being stolen by WiFi is very unlikely since most sites that take cards are encrypted. It’s much more likely that she was a phishing victim or wherever she spent her money had their server hacked. Of course, the reporter accepts her version of the story without asking any questions. Then the article gives an “example” of just how “bad” the situation is. Unfortunately, the example is just some guy walking along somewhere and seeing a bunch of unsecured WiFi access points. That doesn’t show how bad the situation is. That just shows that a lot of access points are unsecured. It doesn’t show that people are having their credit cards or identities stolen or having their emails read. If users take the right precautions in their usage of WiFi, there’s nothing wrong with using an open WiFi network. People should be taught to take the right precautions when using an unsecured network, but it doesn’t mean that everyone automatically needs to lock up their network.

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Comments on “Blame Wireless!”

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Hiawatha Bray (user link) says:

Insecure WiFi access points--the real danger

I agree that this story misses the point. I wrote a piece awhile back that identifies the real reason you’re taking a chance by leaving a wireless AP unguarded.

A guy in California used a wireless laptop to send thousands of spam messages. He just drove around till he found an unprotected AP and used it to relay his spam. Another guy in Canada was arrested with a laptop full of kiddie porn. He allegedly downloaded the stuff over other peoples’ unprotected wireless networks.

So if you don’t want to be held responsible for the bad online behavior of others, locking down your wireless network is a sensible precaution.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Insecure WiFi access points--the real danger

Sorry, Hiawatha, but that’s not an actual “danger.” US law is pretty clear that if you’re a service provider, you’re not responsible for what happens on your network. This is why ISPs don’t get sued when people use their networks to do something illegal.

So, yes, it could cause some legal hassles, but the legal liability is not on the network owner.

There are plenty of good reasons to leave your network open — just as their are plenty of good ones to keep it closed. But, being worried about others sending spam on your network isn’t a particularly valid one.

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