Its a while since the fuss over Google’sStreet View cars ‘stealing’ wifi details as it cruised by our houses first blew up. We may have forgotten about it but the lawyers haven’t and now Google has come clean. Finally, they have admitted to taking some emails, URLs and passwords during its Street View operation. How many precisely isn’t clear but it means Google is now facing further legal action and in all probability, a hefty fine. hefty by most folk’s measure but in this case it seems the maximum fine could be just £500,000. This is a tiny amount for a company as rich as Google. Admittedly, this is only in the UK but even so, it’s nothing.
The same can’t be said about the negative publicity that Google will receive and its not likely to be the end of the matter either, with other countries legislators looking to fine them too. Some commentators think Google has broken no laws so that no fine is possible. Privacy groups of course have a different view and are calling for Google to be heavily punished.
Whether you believe Google acted in a malicious and illegal manner or that it was an entirely unintentional and accidental error on their part is somewhat irrelevant. What’s important is that if Google can collect private data so easily ( a drive-by snatch ) then how easy can it be for a determined hacker? All this underlines the need for you to have decent security on your wireless network, so make sure you are using WPA2 (and not the easily hacked WEP) security on your network. Otherwise you are asking others to come and steal your private data, possibly your identity and your money sitting in your bank accounts too. You have been warned.
It seems the message still isn’t getting across. A recent report by insurance firmCPP shows some 40,000 wi-fi networks across the UK could be easily hacked, often within a few seconds. What’s most shocking about this finding is that almost half of them had no password at all – that’s nearly 20,000!
These networks are vulnerable to even the most inept hacker. With little more than a laptop, a wireless connection and some easily obtained software all of these networks could be hacked and the owner wouldn’t even know it. That means if they are using their internet connection to do online banking that they could find their logons stolen, followed soon after by their cash. They are also vulnerable to having their online identity stolen, their computers taken over and turned into zombies spewing forth spam and sending more viruses and Trojans around the net.
Another surprising finding of the research is that 82% of those interviewed thought their networks were secure. This just underlines the fact that most of the public have little understanding about Wi-Fi security and are oblivious to the risks they are facing. When one considers that Wi-Fi is very common now on smartphones and other devices (iPods and iPads for example) then this is a very worrying situation indeed. Its difficult to know what can be done about it too as most of the public develop a glazed look whenever you try and explain Wi-Fi security through the use of WPA2 security etc.
One solution would be for manufacturers to design devices with automatic security configuration and the SSID and wireless keys stuck on a label on the device. SKY do this with some of their routers so it’s possible to do it. Until all Wi-Fi devices come automatically configured with WPA2 encryption however, it’s down to the end-user to educate themselves and make sure their devices and networks in general are all properly secured.
Check out my post here for some tips on how to do this. I intend to write another post on how to secure your Wi-Fi network step by step so keep visiting.
It seems that the law is starting to take notice of the security risks of poor wireless network security, if the recent experience of one German citizen is anything to go by.
A German court has recently ruled that German citizens are responsible for the security of their own private wireless connections. What’s more, it has proved its point by ruling that a musician had the right to sue the owner of a network connection that had been used to illegally download and file-share music.
The owner had proof that the householder was on holiday at the time but the court ruled that the network should have been password-protected.
The court’s verdict was that the owner could be fined up to 100 euros (£86).
“Private users are obligated to check whether their wireless connection is adequately secured to the danger of unauthorized third parties abusing it to commit copyright violation,” the court in Karlsruhe said.
While it did not find the owner guilty of actual copyright violation the ruling was that the person must take a degree of responsibility for their connection being used to break the law.
In a similar case in the UK in 2005, Gregory Straszkiewicz was fined £500 and given a 12 months conditional discharge for using the wireless network of an Ealing resident without permission. The owner of the network was not charged.
However, this may change n the future and if you are running a wireless network that is unsecured, or even running the easily cracked WEP security protocol, now would be a good time to make sure your network is secure. You may get fined by the courts just yet but having an insecure network is asking for trouble. If you don’t wish to become a victim of identity theft then you should certainly be running the WPA/WPA2 protocol.
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Welcome to “Wi-Fi Wisdom”! This blog is intended to be a source of tips, advice, reviews and tutorials for anyone looking to get the most out of their wireless network.
Although I am not a ‘techie’ or a ‘computer geek‘ I have been working with computers since the early 1990’s and have lots of experience getting them to do what I want. I have worked with both Windows and Mac computers , as well as dabbled with Linux. I hope to avoid any overt bias to one OS or another but as I use a Mac as my main computer and Windows is the dominant OS on most folks desktops (UNIX is not common in most homes and SME’s), these two will feature more than Linux in my posts.
I will try to avoid any tendency to say Macs are better than Windows computers, even though I truly believe that on the whole they are (the computers as much as the OS). There, I have said it! I promise not to let it stop me pointing out where Macs are deficient or where Windows gets it right. However, as we will be concentrating on wireless networking in this blog, the actual OS is mostly irrelevant. Its will be more about protocols, practical things you can do to improve your wireless network’s performance and issues such as security etc.
Please do leave comments and any links you have found useful. I am only one person and its impossible for me to know everything.