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.