Feeds

Wireless insecurity: do not use the cheerleader defence

Don't try this at home, folks

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Comment The message boards are alive with misguided advice about wireless networks. Switch off your security, they say: you’ll get away with murder.

It follows the news that the music industry has dropped a lawsuit against Tammie Marson of Palm Desert, California. Marson argued that the fact that her computer contained illegal music files downloaded over her internet connection was not proof of a crime. As a cheerleader teacher, she said, hundreds of girls passed through her house, any one of whom could have used her PC. She also ran a wireless network without security – so anyone outside her house could have used her net connection.

Observers in homes without cheerleader traffic were fascinated by the wireless defence. "I’m going to open my network to the neighbourhood,” was a typical comment. "Screw the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America]!” But think this through: suppose someone outside your house uses your connection to download child porn to a laptop, hack into a bank or launch a denial of service attack. Unless you change your router’s default settings, you’ll never know. But the police might. So they’ll impound your computer and, if they find no incriminating files, they might give it back; or suspect that you knew how to cover your tracks. It's your word against theirs. So keep your home network secure. For criminals, accessing an insecure network is as easy as putting on a balaclava.

Your office wireless network is more likely to have good security – but perhaps you should check. A quarter of business networks are unsecured, according to a recent wireless survey by RSA Security. Its tests in London this year found that 22% of access points still had default settings that put networks at risk. RSA points out that these offices are at risk of data theft and virus infection. It follows that they could also face difficult questions from police tracing terrible crimes. They might not prove anything against your company; but nor is it an investigation your business wants.

We don’t hear of such investigations today, but that could change. While the percentage of vulnerable networks is falling, it is falling slowly – and the total number of networks is rising fast. RSA reports a 73 per ecnt year-on-year rise in the number of wireless hotspots in London.

The police don’t like anonymity breaking evidential chains. Will they push for new laws that make unsecured networks illegal, or grounds for a claim that the operator is aiding and abetting the commission of a crime? After all, our Data Protection Act already has certain expectations of office networks that hold personal data. While the police don’t care about extending these expectations to protect movies and music, they do care about hacking and child porn; and right now they probably care even more about terrorist communications. At a time when air travellers can’t carry toothpaste, it doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched to foresee the banning of safe havens for criminal communications.

That may or may not happen. But for now, if nothing else, fix your wireless security. Otherwise you could find yourself reported in the press as helping the police with their enquiries in connection with a terrible crime. Nobody wants that.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

This article was orginally published in Issue 15 of OUT-LAW magazine. Register with OUT-LAW to get a free subscription.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
BBC: We're going to slip CODING into kids' TV
Pureed-carrot-in-ice cream C++ surprise
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Twitter: La la la, we have not heard of any NUDE JLaw, Upton SELFIES
If there are any on our site it is not our fault as we are not a PUBLISHER
Facebook, Google and Instagram 'worse than drugs' says Miley Cyrus
Italian boffins agree with popette's theory that haters are the real wrecking balls
Sit tight, fanbois. Apple's '$400' wearable release slips into early 2015
Sources: time to put in plenty of clock-watching for' iWatch
Facebook to let stalkers unearth buried posts with mobe search
Prepare to HAUNT your pal's back catalogue
Ex-IBM CEO John Akers dies at 79
An era disrupted by the advent of the PC
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.