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Two arrested for using home owners wireless network
Wednesday 20 February 2008 17:50:27 by Andrew Ferguson

Two men have been arrested for gaining unauthorised access to a wireless network. Some readers may recall this has happened before. The short item in the Berwick Advertiser indicates the incident happened around lunchtime on Sunday 17th February and involved two men with laptops sat in a parked car.

No firm information is given on what state the wireless network was in, although it is likely that it was an insecure or "open" wireless network with no security options enabled. Even those using WEP encryption are however vulnerable and everyone should be using WPA or WPA2 encryption where possible. The advice from the original article suggests following manufacturer's instructions, which can sometimes be quite difficult, particularly for non-technical users.

The process of securing your wireless network varies according to the hardware you have and very often people can find that one piece of hardware they own will not work with the best encryption levels so a less secure option needs to be used. Get Safe Online has an easy to follow guide on securing your wireless network which will give you the background information as to what to look for in hardware documentation. If your broadband provider supplied the hardware it is worth checking the support section of their website for information. Our own Home Networking forum can be a good place to seek help and if all else fails there are options of paying for someone to visit and figure everything out for you. The cost of getting someone to visit and set-up your wireless network in a secure fashion seems to start at about £60 (current offer from BT Home IT; GeekSquad and The Tech Guys are about/from £70).

This is an opportune moment to encourage all wireless access point manufacturers and broadband service providers to ensure that they ship devices with security options enabled and only allow 'low security' or 'open' modes to be enabled after the user confirms explicitly that they are aware of the potential consequences.

It will only be a matter of time before an innocent user in a car is arrested for using their laptop with a 3G broadband or Bluetooth Internet link entirely legally. We hope that the police will train all their officers to distinguish between legal and illegal activity.

Comments

Posted by jrawle over 9 years ago
If it was unsecured and was broadcasting its SSID, who's to say the owners of the connection didn't leave it open as a wireless hotspot that passers-by are welcome to use?

I note that the police intervened because people were seen sitting outside. No doubt if the owner had called the police to say their router showed an unknown laptop was connected to the wireless, the police wouldn't have been interested.

Was it the owner of the connection who called the police?
Posted by brett7 over 9 years ago
The article doesn't explain what was dishonest about use of the network. If I leave a network open (advertising its existence and accepting requests from computers to connect), I expect people to use it.

People also seem to have the idea that joining a wireless network equates with getting access to the personal computers on the network (again making network usage seem scarier than it should be)

If someone leaves a network open by accident, how are people meant to know it isn't meant to be used? Do users who think they have joined a city's free wi-fi network get prosecuted too?
Posted by pushkin over 9 years ago
If you are stupid enough to leave your door open when you go out and you get burgled, the ease of access for the burglar does not mitigate the crime of theft. That's the point.

As to what has been stolen, that's a point of philosophy. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
The people arrested and the person with the connection are both equally stupid...
Oh ill just sit here looking suspect in my car with a laptop...... Oh my connection which is unsecured is going slow i wonder why... Thank god us tax payers are dealing with idiots like this :rolleyes: Pass the cotton wool i need another layer :P
Posted by sadoldman over 9 years ago
Ignorance is not stupidity.

The people who were arrested are unlikely to be stupid, they may in fact be very clever and devious individuals who wish to access sites with someone else's IP.

It is the responsibility of all those that know better to educate and advise of the dangers of an unsecured network but I do feel the long term answer lies with manufacturers shipping the units with default security and advising in very large print of the potential dangers of removing it.

If it is default and you remove it and it gets used, well, I then accept a degree of stupidity is involved.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"The people who were arrested are unlikely to be stupid, they may in fact be very clever and devious individuals who wish to access sites with someone else's IP."
Perhaps i should had said technically gifted, stupid in how they applied their gift.
quote"If it is default and you remove it and it gets used, well, I then accept a degree of stupidity is involved."
Cant comment on all makes of wireless router but a quick read of the documentation tells you why you should secure it for my model and i imagine its the same for many models.
Posted by rygar1 over 9 years ago
I worry slightly about people sitting in cars using laptops getting arrested. I have heard of this a few times now. Are the police going to be called every time some poor salesman sitting in his car is emailing his expenses back to the office over his 3G connection?
Posted by jrawle over 9 years ago
How about if you leave your door open when you are out with a big sign saying, "please help yourself to my property". Arguably, that's the equivalent to advertising the SSID. The difference is that most houses do not come with such a sign ready-fixed.
Posted by Clearsky2 over 9 years ago
The two guys were probably acting suspiciously. Had they been hot-linking from a street café, the Bill wouldn't have noticed. There had to be some other reason for the arrest. This also means that the wireless router of the client could/would/should be confiscated as evidence as, this will have a unique DHCP Client list that identifies the MAC address of the car's occupants... unless it vapourises when the router is switched off. The two lags could also claim that they thought it was a public hot spot that they found after a bit of war-driving.

Posted by Clearsky2 over 9 years ago
Meanwhile...

" The cost of getting someone to visit and set-up your wireless network in a secure fashion seems to start at about £60 "

THAT IS CRIMINAL!!!!!!
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
pushkin - And neither do people in real life automatically walk into houses as many wireless devices connect to wifi hotspots.

clearsky - no, that's low. A proper secure setup is going to need a router of about that cost for starters.
Posted by Clearsky2 over 9 years ago
Low? To configure a secure network is a case of RTFM , or , UTFW (use the firmware wizzard). Sadly, people would rather pay £'s to have an expert do what they should be able to do - because it gives them a warm glow that they are being ripped off. Sorry, protected.

Wrap your wifi router in cotton wool and place in a lead lined box and then bury the box in the garden...
Posted by humm over 9 years ago
No way is using an unsecured wireless network akin to robbing an unlocked house!!

It's more like accessing a website that was meant to be secured..

Don't forget many wireless devices are set up to automatically connect to any available network.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"Wrap your wifi router in cotton wool and place in a lead lined box and then bury the box in the garden..."

LOL you forgot the lock on the box LOL
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
Clearsky2, If people cannot RTFM, how is that my fault? Also, I've done setups for people twice, and what they actually wanted was a complex security and bandwidth limiting setup, which involved ASUS routers with custom firmware. £60 is wayyy too cheap for that.
Posted by wifigeek over 9 years ago
and what about those who actually *leave* their wireless wide open on purpose? i would be furious if the police decided to nick someone outside my house with a laptop, if i want to leave my wireless open for someone else to use, thats *my* business. not theirs.

i would be even more furious if they lifted me for surfing the web in a car using my phone as a wireless AP.

still think there is more to come from this story..
Posted by jonl60 over 9 years ago
If you set your SSID to "Private Network - No Uninvited Visitors" you will have a legal leg to stand on. Also, if the ISPs have to act on illegal downloads, the ISP customer may get kicked off the internet for someone elses downloads, so strong security is a must have.
Posted by leshewitt over 9 years ago
RE: Cost of setup for wireless.

If you want just about any tradesman to come out and do anything, it's £50 just to come to your house. Many people are not as IT literate as people who post here and wouldn't have a clue where to start, even if they did RTFM. I was an IT guy in a big company and many of the manuals didn't make any sense at all!
Posted by leshewitt over 9 years ago
The people who say "please feel free to use my network" should change their SSID to reflect that.

I advise all of my (mostly non-IT literate) friends to make sure their wireless runs WPA security. After certain high profile cases of people downloading "unsavoury content" shall I say, and getting fined or jailed for it, I wouldn't leave a network open. Presumably the "boys in blue" would start from the bad guys web site and work outwards, eventually getting to the IP address of a users router. The user would then have some awkward questions to answer!
Posted by Pete-W-Trotman over 9 years ago
What people don't realise with an unsecured network is that people can be using your line without your knowledge to download pornography and the download can be then traced to your IP. address and this can then lead to you being questioned by the police.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"What people don't realise with an unsecured network is that people can be using your line without your knowledge to download pornography and the download can be then traced to your IP. address and this can then lead to you being questioned by the police."
LMAO what for downloading porn?????? LOL oh no i better tell the mrs no more teasing blokes online and no more mucky video downloads when shes feeling frisky and im away.
I assume you meant child porn or other similar offences where the offenders balls should be lopped off with a rusty knife.
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