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Wireless Networking The Internet Security Networking Hardware

Some 12% of Consumers 'Borrow' Unsecured Wi-Fi 469

alphadogg writes "Despite the fact that it's often considered an illegal act, a sizeable percentage of the UK/US internet-using population 'borrows' unsecured Wi-Fi access. This is according to a study conducted by the group Accenture. 'The Accenture study found that computer users are still engaging in some unsafe computing practices. Nearly half of all respondents said that they used the same password for all of their online accounts, and only a quarter of them have ever encrypted files on their computers.'" My guess is the actual figure is higher than that.
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Some 12% of Consumers 'Borrow' Unsecured Wi-Fi

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  • news.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:30AM (#23104286)
    This just in:
    People on the internet 'steal' stuff they should pay for.

    • Re:news.. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @11:37AM (#23105620) Journal
      I lost my original reply when my neighbor turned off his wi-fi router. Some people are so rude.
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:31AM (#23104306) Homepage Journal
    I am trying to connect to "Free Public Internet" but its not letting me.
    Do I need a password?
  • by Toad-san ( 64810 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:32AM (#23104334)
    Had a lady bring her laptop into our computer repair shop. "I can't get the Internet any more."

    After extensive questioning (using very small words), I determined:

    Her expensive laptop worked fine.

    Her TCP/IP settings, web browser, etc. all worked just fine.

    The wireless components and setup worked just fine.

    What was NOT working fine was her neighbor's wireless access point. Apparently that fine fellow had either turned it off, lost his own internet connection, encrypted his WAP, or whatever.

    She never knew she was using his connection, connecting to his WAP. She thought that, since the stick-on on her laptop said it had wireless and could reach the internet .. that it was a godz-given fact that, anywhere she went, she'd have internet access.

    "But it works on campus."

    Sigh .. more explanations.

    Half an hour of my life, gone. And I don't even want to think about the brain damage.
    • by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:37AM (#23104474) Homepage
      Everyone started out as a newbie.

      • by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:39AM (#23104514)
        Sadly only a handful ever progress past that point.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sm62704 ( 957197 )
          Sadly only a handful ever progress past that point

          Is that twenty years' experience, or one year's experience twenty times?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by D Ninja ( 825055 )
          That is true, but the thing to remember is that everybody is a newbie in something that they interact with day-to-day. Honestly, other than the basics, I couldn't tell you the first thing about how my car works. Living where I do, it's much more convenient to take it into a shop and not worry about it.

          Not knowing how to do something doesn't give those people who do the right to look down upon that person. Then again, that's not going to change - everybody wants to feel important. Looking down upon the "
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Sobrique ( 543255 )
        When computers were hard work, the newbie didn't get past the 'so where's this "any" key them?'. Sometimes I think it was better that way.
        • I used to hate that attitude. But it's when anyone at the level of mildly competent or above winds up punished that I start to side that way.
      • Wow, even the fairly informed can make mistakes. Windows has a fine way of prioritizing what APs it will choose to connect to. Read a story not long ago about someone who thought he was on his AP, but found out a year after installing it while troubleshooting a connection issues, that he had been using his neighbors AP.

        So it goes...
    • by PeterKraus ( 1244558 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:53AM (#23104804)
      When I started to work at our Laptop shop, I wondered at all those signs "Microsoft Windows is not OFFICE" and "You need a connection to internet with a wireless router to connect to internet wirelessly."

      It's half a year later and, yes, people are stupid.
      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        When I started to work at our Laptop shop, I wondered at all those signs "Microsoft Windows is not OFFICE"

        Must be all them Linux users that are trying to get by with the Windows that came preinstalled on their new machines. We're used to getting a full office suite with our operating systems!
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @11:08AM (#23105058) Journal
      But you know, I see no reason whatever why the internet shouldn't be at least partly a free, mesh network. Set up all the laptops to be both a client and a server.

      Of course, some big multionaltional corporations and their stooges will have hissy fits. Too bad fo rthem, hooray for the rest of us. If I get a laptop, I'll have wifi set up on my desktop, and it will be open. Because I'm not a selfish asshole.
  • And why is this bad? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:33AM (#23104378) Homepage
    When you set up your wireless network you can choose whether to allow open access or not. If the network's owner has specified that anyone can use it, why is it bad to do so? I have my wireless router at home set up for open access and it does me no harm if others use it for occasional web browsing. The only flaw is that many routers don't have a way to prioritize or cap usage so that my work isn't slowed down by other people's Bittorrenting.

    Yes, it's sent unencrypted - just like network traffic over those old-fashioned things called wires. We all know to use https and ssh for secure connections anyway.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by scubamage ( 727538 )
      Its only bad because it hurts businesses, thats about it. Look how many public WiFi proposals get shot down on a regular basis. As for why its bad to leave it unsecured, Congress has basically decided that if you leave an access point unsecured and someone uses it to download kiddy porn, or talk to their 'terrorist' buddies overseas, you are guilty as an accomplice because, "you should know better."
      More great legislation brought to us by a bunch of old WASPs and a few overzealous soccer moms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 )
      It may be against your terms of service for you to open it up. I remember in one of the contracts that I had with an ISP, it was in no uncertain terms, you were not allowed to share your connection with another. Too bad that it's not very enforceable as that was the sole purpose of having the line--to split the outrageous bill.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by auric_dude ( 610172 )
      Some advocate stealing Wi-Fi links [] but only with the knowledge of the owner and besides the chances of being caught by the RIAA if a guest downloads something they should not is after all rather small.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plague3106 ( 71849 )
      No, the network's owner has specified the link isn't encrypted. That has nothing to do with whether or not the owner thinks its ok for YOU to use his network.
    • by falzbro ( 468756 )

      why is it bad to do so?

      What if someone decides to download all sorts of child pornography, and it gets tracked back to your IP?
      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        What a load of crap. How many pedophiles do you think are really out there?

        You have been suckered by one of the four horseman of the internet Apocalypse. Used by Governments world wide to justify new laws.

        Are you afraid of terrorists when you go to the movies? Or on your way to work? What about all those pedophiles that you walk past every day! They might take a look at you child! OMG Won't Someone thing of the children!!
        • OK, forget the kidpr()n. How many Office, Photoshop and AutoCAD torrents are exposed on his IP?

          • by delt0r ( 999393 )
            Now that is much more likely. But then again we are the kind of people that know about it and how to do it. Perhaps mp3s are the most probable illegal activity that could happen.

            Either way, I am breaking no law or contract where i am. So i won't sweat it. (I provide a free access point.)
    • >>the network's owner has specified that anyone can use it, why is it bad to do so?

      If your ISP is through your Cable company, you are an accessory to cable theft unless you have an account which allows for sharing. Some offer a business class and allow for sharing.

      If your ISP is through your phone company (DSL) and your contract forbids this (not all do) you are aiding in theft of phone services.

      If you have a contract which allows you to share like this, consider contributing to the free hot []
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      I have a FON access point with a booster and Just a plain wireless that I have left open for others to use. Its open because they are allowed to use it. They up to 50% of my bandwidth (2Mbit). Its cost me nothing, so why not?
    • by Burz ( 138833 )
      The Upside-Down-Ternet [] (*evil grin*)
    • Don't be naive. The owner of the WAP almost never "specifies" that it should be open. It comes that way by default. The overwhelming majority of people just plug the thing into their modem and consider it great that now they can take their laptop all over the house with this magic wireless thing.

      If someone alters the SSID to state that it's meant for public use that's one thing. But to act like any open AP is an indication of the owner's intent is idiotic.

      All the mindless bleating around here, about
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CODiNE ( 27417 )
      If the network's owner has specified that anyone can use it, why is it bad to do so?

      Because the world is slowly moving one step after the other towards a new legal concept "Guilty until proven innocent".
  • by call -151 ( 230520 ) * on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:35AM (#23104396) Homepage
    This is a pretty inane study- there is a huge difference between occasionally looking for an open wireless when away from home to browse and using a neighbor's open wireless as your main pipe. And the comments about identity theft are ridiculous, as most sensible people adjust their browsing/net use when using unknown networks to reflect their uncertainty in its security.
    • by bcattwoo ( 737354 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:42AM (#23104572)

      And the comments about identity theft are ridiculous, as most sensible people adjust their browsing/net use when using unknown networks to reflect their uncertainty in its security.
      Great, now how many internet users fall under the category of "sensible people"? Given the number of people I see on the internet that are unaware of simple things like when and if they will get that "tax rebate", I suspect the number that realize their vulnerability when borrowing someone else's connection to be rather low.
  • by EricR86 ( 1144023 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:36AM (#23104440)

    But if they start borrowing and eating your already limited bandwidth and start choking your connection. Then just use some form of encryption and be done with it (AES).

    It doesn't really matter whether or not it's illegal, they put themselves at risk if they transmit wireless on an unencrypted connection

  • Higher figure? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by phoenix_nz ( 1252432 )
    I have my doubts that more people 'borrow' Wi-Fi access. But as I couldn't find a link to the actual study, this is hard to confirm.
    Personally I would guess that the result is much lower than in the study. None of my acquaintances have ever piggy-backed wi-fi, and that includes cosc (Computer Science) students, software engineers in the industry and of course plenty of people that know nothing about computers. At the same time only one person I know encrypts any hard-drive data (no not me).

    I don't see wh
    • ... If you misuse the network to steal data of your host, the stealing should obviously still be illegal
      Yeah, but how are you going to enforce that? Easier to just pass a blanket, "No Trespassing" law and be done with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plague3106 ( 71849 )
      Trespass is trespass, whether the gate is open or not.
      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        IINM (and iANAL) in Illinois you must have a "no trespassing" sign posted before you can prosecute someone for tresspass.

        If you set your wifi up unsecured, there's no "no tresspassing" sign.
      • Trespass is trespass, whether the gate is open or not.
        Damn right he is.
  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:37AM (#23104472) Homepage
    Where exactly is this "considered an illegal act"?

    How the hell do you "consider" something to be illegal? It either is, or isn't.

    How the hell is 12% a "sizeable percentage"?

    Someone's really trying hard to make an article out of nothing.
    • How the hell do you "consider" something to be illegal? It either is, or isn't.

      It must be kind of like skateboarding.

      But seriously, it's a question of whether existing laws can be {twisted, interpreted} to apply to an {arbitrary, unforeseen} situation. That is, it depends on the state courts. What laws the DA tries to apply, depends on his {whim, professional judgment}.

      IANAL and all that.

    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Funny)

      by BrotherBeal ( 1100283 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:59AM (#23104894)

      Someone's really trying hard to make an article out of nothing.
      Just wait a while and the editors will make two.
  • by wik ( 10258 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:37AM (#23104476) Homepage Journal
    Zonk doesn't read past the headline.
  • People actually share free things.

    Collectively we're quite evil, but when it comes to free things, we can make the superhuman effort of sharing them.

    However, this usually only works when it takes more effort to avoid sharing them.

    Check for your natural sharing instincts in this situations:

    You have to take out the garbage. You'd rather:

    A. Take the garbage out yourself.
    B. Share the garbage with the neighbor.
    C. Pull out your own eyeballs with a rusty wooden sock.

    You have to set up your network. You'd rather:

    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      C. Pull out your own eyeballs with a rusty wooden sock.

      Just because of that unpleasant image, I'm going to have to subject you to a Vitrectomy []. ;)

      C. Cowboy Neal.

      You win, I got nothin' worse than that.

      Collectively we're quite evil, but when it comes to free things, we can make the superhuman effort of sharing them.

      Even when it comes to non-free things. All those MP3s on the P2P networks were originally ripped from CDs that were purchased for cash. All the items at a charity food pantry were bought with real
  • Not surprised (Score:3, Informative)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:40AM (#23104536) Journal
    I have a Speedstream 6-series-something (6200?) router, and it has this problem where if you disable the wireless, you have to do a hard reset to enable it again. Long story short I was running an open wireless network for a while, and there was never less than two leechers on the network, in a well-spaced neighborhood full of old people in a third world country. I'd hate to see what would happen to an open wireless network in a crowded metropolis.

    Other interesting fact: Me and a friend were wardriving with just a regular laptop, no special antennae, speeding down the highway, and we picked up a LOT of networks, often with a good signal. Some of these were in places with no buildings in sight. When I get a working laptop again I plan to implement a setup that leeches off open networks as I drive (mainly for a Google Earth-based navigation system, anything sensitive will either have to be encrypted or left out), and I have no doubt it will work nicely.
  • Same password? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sobrique ( 543255 )
    Yeah, I use the same password, for all the sites that require that I 'register'. So I use a fairly generic, almost dictionary word, because that way I actually get to _probably_ log into J random nonentity site that I don't give a toss about registering on, next time around.

    Stuff I vaguely care about, gets better passwords, and regular changes.

    That's not 'insecurity' that's 'too many places insisting on registration'.

  • by rdhatch ( 1253652 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:41AM (#23104550)
    "Nearly half of all respondents said that they used the same password for all of their online accounts..." I have statistical evidence (sample size of a little over 5000) that proves that says that the percentage is MUCH higher...more like 80-85%. We talk all the time about privacy, net security, identity theft, etc., but this something that is VERY often overlooked. There are many LAMP projects out there (mostly put together by high schoolers or ambitious university freshmen) that collect an email and a password for their own user authentication and then don't encrypt their users' passwords in database. Dishonest 15 year-old admin + one select query on his own database and then approx 80% of the time you have access to the users' email account. From there, the sky's the limit. Online banking, university login accounts, etc. Troubling to say the least. We need a LOT more education of stupid kids that don't know how to encrypt passwords safely in their DB. Furthermore, we need to remember good old fashion ethics in this stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:42AM (#23104574)
    It always seemed odd to me that this was illegal, when in reality you are asking for and getting permission. That is, as everyone here would know, your laptop (for example) has to ask the wireless router for permission to connect. The router then grants permission and allocates an IP, all within its normal operating process (i.e., no trickery or hacking involved). It is not a passive process, like, say, entering an unlocked home, in which the house is passively exploited.
  • if you dont want your community to use your wireless, but you want the ease of unsecured access, use mac address filtering on your wireless router. most all 802.11b/g/n integrated service routers come with that feature in an easy to use package. if you CBA to keep people off your network, it WILL be used.

    it makes it a bit harder to add devices to the network, but once again, tis still easy.

    i keep mine unsecured simply so that if there is ever a disaster in the area, the cisco NERV (i got to tour it th

  • Warned my neighbour (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scsirob ( 246572 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:44AM (#23104628)
    I came across an unsecured network with strong signal a while ago. Turned out to be someone across the street. They had 4 Windows systems attached, with C: drives shared, unprotected. I also found a shared printer on their network.

    I warned them by printing a page on that shared printer, identifying myself and describing the problem. Next day the access point was secure..
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I warned someone in my college dorm this way too, only it involved a 500 page document of "Hidey Ho Neighbor!"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CODiNE ( 27417 )
      I had that exact same experience a few years ago... except it was a bank... and I didn't tell them who I was.
  • by fotbr ( 855184 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:46AM (#23104666) Journal
    I'm guilty of using the same password on a lot things online. Several forums, throwaway email addresses, "register to read the rest of this article" news sites, etc. Basically, the stuff I don't really care about, and I don't give two hoots if it gets h4x0r3d.

    I don't particularly see that as an "unsafe" practice, since none of it really matters.

    Things I actually care about (personal email, anything work related, etc) get real passwords, and things that can really cause problems (banking, etc) don't get done via the internet at all.
  • In an apartment. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WaltherPPK ( 1267864 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @10:50AM (#23104752)
    Living in an apartment, I was actually surprised with the opposite. It appears that there are 20 or so wireless networks with good signal strength in range, and I am in a corner of the building. However, there is not a single network that isn't using some form of encryption. I don't know if this is typical, but all the supposed luddites living in this building (a combination of college/university age couples and 50+ year old singles) have obviously figured their wireless routers out.

    The other premise upon which people base a lot of paranoia regarding network and personal computer security is the assumption that they possess something worth stealing. There are many effective credit card fraud methods in use that don't require any sort of computer exploitation, but rather involve "social engineering." What other information does the average person have on his PC that is of value? Of course I would be disturbed if somebody managed to obtain my entire photograph library, but that is of so little value to somebody else, I doubt very much that any significant effort would be put towards obtaining it.
    • by Zelos ( 1050172 )
      Same here (terraced house in a small city in the UK), I can see 11 networks from my office and they're all encrypted.

      Considering how close I've been to my ISP bandwidth cap this month, I'd be seriously pissed off if someone used my connection without permission.
  • In my neighborhood I can see 8 access points. Every one of them encrypted. Granted 6 of them use WEP...
  • For fun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @11:00AM (#23104910)
    For fun, go to a local mall and turn on a wifi sniffer of your choice. Our local podunk mall had no less than 30 unsecured wireless networks, almost all for stores which held servers with financial data. And thats what I found with a smartphone using totalcommander and wififofum.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rrkap ( 634128 )
      It's funny, when I moved to my new apartment complex I could see about 40 wireless networks and every one of them was secure. I think that secure networks are becoming more common as the cable and DSL modems with built in wireless access that they provide come secure by default.
  • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @11:03AM (#23104946) Journal
    Nearly half of all respondents said that they used the same password for all of their online accounts

    Like newspaper registrations? Rather than bother with bugmenot, I just register using bogus data. My password is 111111. Because I really don't give a shit about a newspaper registration. It has nothing whatever to do with security. The Chicago Tribune has no CC#s, SS#s or any other real, personally identifiable information about me; I don't even know why they bother.

    Yet this is somehow deemed a "Security risk." And I don't send encrypted data; if it's sensitive information I'll send it snail mail.
  • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )
    Yeah, my neighbors just got a laptop & have been using my Wi-Fi from their front porch. We're good friends so it doesn't bother me. I'm pretty surprised it can reach them being 802.11b & over 300 feet away. Not too big of a deal as no one else lives within at least 1000 feet of my router. If I lived in the city I'd have that shit locked down tight.
  • Like me, when I am working in my bedroom, I must check if I am connected to my neighbor's wireless network, because his network is way slower than mine.
  • I've always found the word "consumer" to have a sinister connotation. It implies hierarchy and control, and implies that there are people in society who do, and then there are those who just receive. It's offensive.

    Dammit, we're "citizens", "people", "internet users", and a million other terms. I never want to be called a "consumer".
  • if it's unsecured, that means either two things, the owner intended it to be used, or the owner is blatantly oblivious to security and the notion that you have to turn it on.
    if the oblivious owner had intended to deny access, he would have sought a way to do it.
    either way, open use is implied.
  • It's my bandwidth, I paid for it, I should be able to do whatever I want with it. Hell if I open my base station to all and some poor person uses it I'd like to be able to take that as a charitable donation as a matter of fact. The real problem here is that the last mile is controlled by a bunch of people that know for a fact that the end of their business model is neigh. Cell phones? Well the advent of WiMax and VoIP means that a great many of them are totally fucked. In fact as a owner of a Nokia e61 with
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @11:31AM (#23105510)
    I live in a townhouse community, and I can pick up seven wireless networks besides mine. Of those, two are secured. When my Comcast is out, it's nice to have some backup access through one of my neighbors' DSL or satellite service. I don't abuse it, but I do connect for a quick POP mail check or such. I wouldn't dream of doing anything financial over such a link.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas