Using Unsecured Wireless Networks

Sophos (a large IT security company) recently conducted a survey of 560 people. 54% of them admitted to using someone else’s wireless network without permission. That’s more than half the respondents. Why should you care?

If you have a wireless network that isn’t well secured then:

  • Someone could be using your internet account and incurring expenses (or pushing you over a capped limit and effectively slowing down your connection)
  • Someone could be illegally downloading copyrighted content (such as using a file sharing program to download commercial movies – it’s illegal and you’re liable for providing the connection)
  • Someone could be using your internet connection to commit online crimes (just read the posts on this site to get an idea of how common this is).
  • It lets anyone within range bypass your firewall, making your computers and other wireless devices vulnerable. This is especially important if you have wireless in an office environment
  • It’s easier for someone to install spyware on your computer, making activities like online banking very dangerous

aerials The most important reason of these is how easy it makes it for someone to use your network to commit crimes. Imagine being involved in a child pornography investigation, or having your internet disconnected because your network was used to send millions of spam emails.

I’ve written before on how to secure a wireless network and if you haven’t done so it’s worth reading through here.

If you’re in the 54% of people who wouldn’t think twice of using someone else’s wireless network without permission then you should know that:

  • It’s illegal in a lot of countries (people get arrested for this quite often)
  • It’s effectively stealing. It isn’t a victimless crime
  • You can’t trust the network you’re using. It’s easy for someone to setup a wireless network in such a was that they can record all the traffic from it. This is one way to eavesdrop on other people’s traffic and to capture passwords

So the message here is to secure your wireless network, and don’t use other people’s wireless networks without permission.

Virtual Theft

Toy FurnitureThe emergence of a new kind of crime is an interesting thing. We’ve had virtual worlds for quite a few years and as their popularity grows so too do crimes such as fraud, or in this case theft.

There’s a game called Habbo Hotel, it’s an online game where people have online characters. Like a few other online games they can pay real money to decorate their characters and the rooms they occupy. Effectively they buy virtual items to enhance their game.

So when some teenagers are accused of stealing username and passwords of other players, logging in with these accounts and transferring items to their own accounts, it becomes theft. The current buzzword is Virtual Theft. A 17 year old Dutch teenager has been arrested over this allegation, and five other 15 year olds are being questioned. What makes the “theft” significant is that the value of the virtual items is around US$5000.

A┬áspokesman for Sulake, Habbo Hotel’s operator, said:

“It is a theft because the furniture is paid for with real money. But the only way to be a thief in Habbo is to get people’s usernames and passwords and then log in and take the furniture.”

The full article is here. It’s important to note that this isn’t an isolated case. Virtual worlds (in the form of online games) have been a growing trend and like most things that can happen in the real world most forms of crime can carry across to virtual worlds.