Skip Navigation

One in nine broadband users breaking law
Friday 29 August 2008 13:36:55 by Andrew Ferguson

The Daily Mirror has picked up on a poll carried by which suggests that one in nine people have 'hijacked' someone else's Wi-Fi connection (i.e. used it without permission) and that something like one in six households are running an insecure wireless network.

The law takes a dim view of borrowing someone else's Wi-Fi connection unless you have permission to do so with a few cases making it into the news. Interestingly while the article in the Mirror suggests half of those who had borrowed a connection had looked at a person's emails the original article by MoneySupermarket is less sensationalist by revealing that actually around half of those borrowing a connection use it to check their own email.

If you have a wireless router, there are several things you can do to improve security and stop others abusing your Internet connection:

  • If you never use the router's wireless function, disable it in the routers web interface.
  • If going away on holiday, switching off the wireless router saves electricity and removes the risk of the network being hacked.
  • Any form of wireless encryption is better than none, so while WPA2 and WPA are the best protection, the older WEP encryption levels while less secure will slow down people if they are trying to hack onto your system, or they will move onto an easier target. However, WEP is inherently insecure and you should use it with caution.
  • Never use an easy to guess security key such as a family name, or the address of the property. Never use such a phrase as the 'SSID' either.
  • Make sure your computers all run a software firewall. This helps protect your computer if someone breaks onto the wireless network.
  • Keep anti-virus software up to date.

The website covers online security in an easy to follow manner and as always our forums are a good place to ask questions about the areas that have you confused.


Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago could also put your router on a timer so that it's powered off overnight and during the working day if no-one's at home.

It's won't damage the router and won't upset the DSLAM either. I've been doing it for several years now.
Posted by t0m5k1 over 9 years ago
i would say a majority of this is caused by isp giving away a free wireless router even to those who have no need for a wireless router or does the end user knwo how to disable of even adjust the settings within said router to make it 'Safe'

in this instance i say pass the buck to the ISP & force them to action a re-config of said router & provide better knowledge about the device.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
^^^ What Andrue said :) Also if your router has the feature, tell it to email logs when a connection is made, wont stop you getting hijacked but atleast will let you know if you are being.
Posted by Rroff over 9 years ago
"One in nine broadband users breaking law"

umm thats probably more like 9 in 10.
Posted by pepsi_max2k over 9 years ago
damn, wrote a long reply, too long i guess... oh well... in short:

how is anyone ever gonna know if they have permission other than the fact it's open or not? that's all you've got to go on other than one of many random ssid names. surely openess should almost automatically mean permission is given, and it's the owners fault if they don't mean to do this?
Posted by rian over 9 years ago
Accessing other's network isn't always illegal. Such as FON is a good example. Someone would even open their network for public use. So, it is quite hard to distinguish.
Posted by Skip over 9 years ago
I think unless it's specifically marked as free and open (e.g. with a very clear SSID like "FON", "free access" or "public") then you'd be best to assume it's not intentionally open. Especially as a lot of people are on capped packages now, the odds are they would not want to waste their bandwidth on strangers. It all comes down to the balance of probabilities...
Posted by pepsi_max2k over 9 years ago
>> I think unless it's specifically marked as free and open

I actually wrote all about that in my previous disallowed uber thread... basically how would you ever know? Really, BTOpenzone, BTFON, FON_FREE_X, BTHomeHub, kingscross, kongs_cross, ncexwifi, simon_home, simon_work, simon_fon, cloud... How are you really gonna know which is giving you permission and which isn't? Some are obvious if you've seen advertising, others aren't, others may or may not be, others are under certain circumstances which you only know if you've already connected...
Posted by Aqualung over 9 years ago
Perhaps the government should introduce training and a routers operator licence £30 quid plus vat annually, i'll get me coat.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
...And how many of those people are using a device which connects itself, breaking the law quite nicely without bothering to tell the user?

I've come across a case where a wifi tablet someone who wasn't very technical was using had been using a random open wifi connection for 6 months rather than his own - it had never asked him!
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
"It had never asked him/her"

Isn't that default behaviour in Windows XP, if you let Windows (rather than vendor drivers) manage the netword "card" (or dongle or whatever)?
Posted by scragglymonk over 9 years ago
there were 3 locally all broadcasting a strong signal, one is the poles who were shocked and grateful about being told, the other 2 I don't know or care - friend had a new pc and wireless was on by default and searching for new networks. his is off and not need mine on :)
Posted by brett7 over 9 years ago
"The law takes a dim view"
What's that supposed to mean? There is no law against using an open network except where deliberately trying to avoiding access fees (or something to that effect.. link to the law anyone?).

I run an open wifi point, and I want people to use it. Anyone accessing it is acting perfectly legally. If someone leaves their wi-fi similarly open, how am I supposed to know its not deliberate? Thats why there is actually no law against it.
Posted by brett7 over 9 years ago
In fact, the headline is wrong too, isn't it?
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
pepsi_max2k: you can goto the PROPER forum for a much bigger talk!!
you also get extra features!! :D clickable links, post management(yes, you can go back and edit a previous post!)

Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
c_j_ - This wasn't a windows device. But yes, Windows does.

comnut - They ever get the persistant no-login bug sorted. (i.e. switch to deacent forum software)
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
The "law against using an open network" is basically the same about copying cassette tape, and all newer ways... impossible to monitor or stop, and yet you can get many tape-tape decks that enable you to copy at 4 X speed!!

Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
Dawn_Falcon: you mean the BBS forum?? no problem here... get a new password, it may have been garbled...

I dont use it that much, due to low representation of the whole country..(no-one saying where they are does not help! -and it seems there are very few actually using it...)

If this 'comments' can be put on the BBS, I would use it a lot more!

Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
I think another story was not mentioned.. a customer got a new wifi laptop from dixons, got it home, and used it for 6 months before getting 'network problems' - when customer support asked her about the wifi router, she did not know what they were talking about! (she never had one, thought it worked like most mobile phones...) - I guess her neighbor either switched off, or realised what was happening...
Posted by brett7 over 9 years ago
comnut there is no law against simply 'copying a cassette tape'.

There are laws about copying copyrighted material, but thats something different, just as accessing an open wifi network is different to "dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service ‘with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service'"
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
brett7: I guess you are to young to remember when tape was the ONLY recording medium then...

That was the phrase that was used, in many newspapers... to the LOL of many.. :)

and to turn your over-wordy comment 'using wifi' is NOT that trackable, if you do not want it to be... so the innocent buyers get attacked, due to clueless sellers, over-ambitious crime-fighters, and people whose only real knowledge of it all is from the daily mail....
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
Some parts of the BBS allow anonymous posting, and the normal reason for people being auto-logged out is that their computer clock is more than 10 minutes out of data.

Forum may look a little old, as things like avatars and HTML are not allowed, but that makes it faster for those on slower connections.
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
--- While the real vilians are sitting LOL about you all, behind their double/treble bluff wifi hidden in some poor sods house(a good one has at least a mile or two range! If they have two hidden ones, they can be in a van 5 or 6 miles away.... (they found this out in a documentary on TV..)
Posted by pepsi_max2k over 9 years ago
>> pepsi_max2k: you can goto the PROPER forum
>> for a much bigger talk!!

i did have a look there, and quickly realised there was no forum section relating to posts onthe main page. in other words, no one reading this document would see my post, and no one reading my post would know what the hell i was going on about. still, not much different with the later... :oP

Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
- and if you are posting here 'cos you have been banned for not keeping to the rules, then it is your own fault........
Posted by Zentash over 9 years ago
I found the best way to stop WiFi hacking is to use MAC address filtering !
Posted by tickopa over 9 years ago
MAC filtering!! I hope that was sarcasm.
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
:D you have exposed yourself as an apple maniac!!! :D

Posted by tiggerrmummy over 9 years ago
I agree with what Andrue said at the top until a week ago we have a bt router and we didnt have a clue about the wireless being on all the time! We recently got a wireless lap top and suddenly had to learn all about wap and wep settings and the truth has suddenly dawned on us, its been unsecured and open to all until last night! I also dont agree with bt fon or the map location they have on the site...we can now see who has what and where.. really really secure.. not!So we are opting out of that one pronto.
Posted by Somerset over 9 years ago
What's the problem with MAC filtering?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
MAC filtering does not do any encryption, and you can spoof a MAC thus someone sniffing traffic can still get in if they wish.

Yes it will keep out those with no knowledge, but those with access to Google and a few minutes can get around it.
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
"What's the problem with MAC filtering?"

well its the same as re-boring your car engine - do it wrong, and you cannot get anywhere... that is why many do not try it themselves...

goto the forum search at

- there are few results for 'mac address' and none for 'mac filtering'..

you could make a new post there, and link to it here....
Posted by sealion over 9 years ago
Re the comments about users with little wifi knowledge leaving routers unsecured. I've just bought a laptop with a simple "on/off" switch on the front to control wireless. Why can't someone do something similar with routers? that way people who don't want/need wireless connections can disable the wireless without requiring any technical knowledge.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
andrew - no, it logs me out randomly, refuses to stay in its settings, is very very slow, etc. Strangely enough I don't have this issue with any other forum software, so...

(and I synchronise with NTP because I use an app which requires within 60 second accuracy on a regular basis)

Somerset - because if you're using deacent encryption you don't need it, and without deacent encryption it's worthless.
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
ok - putting a router on a timer will likely fry its circuitry pretty quick due to minor spikes when the current is cut on and off by the mechanics inside the timer.
Its pretty simple to figure out how to configure a router by reading the manual (paper or CD based), at worst search online for your make and model (usually on the bottom / front) and you should find a good few very very simple guides.
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago

Comnut - 5 or 6 miles?? Possibly out on the Prairies of North America, otherwise seems you were watching the televised equivalent of the Sun or Daily Mail, lots of scares and no substance. Hidden in someones house?? I have seen theoretical antennas which can give major improvements in range - but they are A) illegal and b) you need one on each station so they can communicate with each other, no point having one station with a 400 metre range while the others only have a 150 metre range.
Posted by harryhound1 over 9 years ago
I am one of those wireless router users, who has not a clue how it works. If someone else was using it I recon I would notice the lights flashing.
In my case I have a hard wired "Voyager 210" plugged into the BT socket and a "Netgear DG834G" plugged into that's Ethernet output. I switch off the "Netgear" everytime I've finished surfing. ?????
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
scot-kiwi: read it properly!!! I am NOT talking about ONLY ONE wifi router... you can even get repeaters for DECT phones now..
"cannot do illegal stuff" - Exactly HOW naive are you???? I think it was 'panorama' or similar that was tracking known criminals, to get evidence to arrest the whole group...
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
harryhound1: Is there a reason to keep the Voyager?? both this and the netgear have an 'ADSL' socket for you to connect a phone line!

I would suggest you contact your ISP for help - Netgear also has the European Support Team on 0844 875 4000.

Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
Comnut: As anyone who knows anything about wireless would realise, with every wireless station repeat you lose throughput aka speed. So by the time you repeated the signal to 5 miles as you quote you would be better off with smoke signals even with 802.11n grade networking with circa 300mbps+ throughput.
Panorama....Pffft I might have respected that years ago but like horizon and other BBC shows its been relegated to tabloid journalism to get the "man on the street" interested in watching.
For your information I am a computer professional.
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
Netgear's website ( ) is also useful and has simple guides which cover most frequently asked questions, also noting any issues said product has and mentioning if a new firmware release solves said issues (firmware is the information that makes most electronic devices work).
Updating of firmware is generally easy and of very low risk (main risk is the power going out halfway through trying to update the device but it usually can be recovered relatively easily if the worst happens)
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
Comnut: I also did not (as far as I can see) use the term "cannot do illegal stuff"
For your information I am an IT professional and have IT degrees and diplomas coming out of my proverbials. yourself?
Also said large sized antennae are very large (think 2 litre cola bottle sized) and noticeable.
I'll stop there before I drop into a flamewar which comnut seems to want since I disagree with his chicken little opinion
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
"with every wireless station repeat you lose throughput aka speed" you really have no clue... the signal is converted, boosted, and sent on...
speed is only for massive files, not for web access..
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
"but they are A) illegal" is what you said, meaning you cannot do it???
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
and you wibble on about your 'qualifications' like a pointless geek, but you seem to have NO knowledge of electronics or mechanics!!

"frying it's circuitry by the mechanics"?? :D:D

AndrueC has had no problems, and most timers these days do not even have mechanics!!!
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
oh yes, and most modern or modernised buildings these days have plenty of covered up 'empty space' in staircases, ceilings, unopened loftspace, etc... The police tracked the crime ring's wireless to a new flat developement, and hacked open a wall to find the space that was used for a heating storage tank(about 2 feet by 8 feet)- masses of space for a laptop and wireless system...
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
comnut: had no problems...YET, the issue is still there, and routers despite being ~£30 still are not what real people would call cheap. Therefore I still would recommend against it.
Since you seem have to issues understanding simple concepts without ridiculing people and showing your OWN stupidity let me explain in simple terms
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
Timer turns on power, and generates a small but measureable spike in the current flow, which isnt an issue if the router has a surge protector in between it and the timer, (however it will damage the surge protector faster and lessen its lifespan) however if their is no surge protection between the timer and the router then the router will be hit with the current and / or voltage spike damaging the components inside and lessening the routers lifespan.
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
Speed is also for web browsing, care to try loading an image intensive page (BBC News, CNN etc as simple examples) on a dial up connection at 56,000 bits per second (if it will actually load without timing out)
and compare that to using typical real world broadband connection(average of 2,000,000 bits per second otherwise known as Megabits per second) and notice the difference.
So go back to your "Computing for the terrified" class and learn before insulting others.
Me, I have a life so I'll leave this discussion now before you make yourself look anymore childish and ill informed
Posted by rugbeater over 9 years ago
so another fucking stupid kiwi then!! so what do you think happens when you switch on your router by the power switch on it then????
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
hmm another keyboard warrior
Ok I will explain to another half wit
Routers are designed to be switched on and left on, not switched on and off every 24 hours or less. Therefore switching them on and off all the time as with a timer or with switching off when not netsurfing will reduce the routers life span.
(yes I know I said I would leave this alone but I have an issue with stupid people making out they "know IT better than all these whizkids")
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
Best solution to this so called "wireless hacking issue"

1) use WPA (wireless protected access) or preferably WPA2 (second generation WPA). (WPA2 is better as the security it uses has been checked for security flaws multiple times by multiple people and thus far is *virtually* uncrackable (think 1000 times the computing power of the USA as a whole for several years) - but strong security is nothing if weak passwords are used, SO pick a password made up of a mix of letters (upper and lower case), numbers
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
and exchange letters for numbers (i.e. zero for O, 1 for i, 3 for e things like that, but do it the way it suits yourself)
2) When I say password I mean "wireless key", which acts like the electronic equivalent of your door key, so pick a nice long key (preferably at least 15 to 20 characters (letters / numbers)
3) DO NOT use WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) as the security scheme it uses has been proven weak and it can be broken in minutes by those using the right software who are close enough to the router. Most devices made in the last 3 to 4 years support WPA
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
IF you are using wireless adapters which are older and do not support WPA (or one of the kids has a nintendo DS). Then if possible, lower the transmission power on the router (Check with the router manual for details, if your not sure where the manual is or never had one, then go to the manufacturers website and get one, use a search engine (manufacturer name should be printed on the router)
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
4) If using a BT Home Hub, and you need WEP (for a nintendo DS online play function for example) change the WEP key, again by referring to the manual for details. Why? because the tool BT uses to generate the default keys has been figured out and it takes hardly anytime to cycle through the 40 to 80 possible keys.
Preferably also change the SSID (name of wireless network) to something other than BTHomeHub-xxxx to something like PrivateDSW (downstairs wireless as an example)(hiding does no good, those in the know can still see it)
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
If your not using a Nintendo DS then change to WPA encryption and a long wireless key with a mix of letters and numbers and that will keep ne'er do wells out and persuade them to move onto an easier target.
5) Lastly the other reason for not turning the router off everyday is that your ADSL speed may drop, due to what is called "line retraining"
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
ADSL Max will slow your line down if it detects too many connection drops as will some ADSL2 providers (Sky I know have rolled out a program which will do the same in an attempt to get your router to stop dropping the connection - slower speed better signal more stable connection it thinks)
Hopefully that was of help to anyone out there trying to secure their wireless network, without resorting to panic measures such as shutting the router off all the time. which point 5 hopefully covers why it is a bad idea - Who likes a slow net connection?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"IF you are using wireless adapters which are older and do not support WPA (or one of the kids has a nintendo DS). Then if possible, lower the transmission power on the router"

LMFAO oh yeah thats a genius solution considering the BT promotional gumpf for the new home hub i got today babbles on about double the range..... What a solution, upgrade and then lower the power..... excellent!
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
another person who can't read
they are claiming that on "wireless n" which few people possess, using WPA encryption by default (finally!)
If you had read that fully you will find that I only suggested cutting the transmission power if using WEP encryption which is proven to be insecure.
If using WPA then there is no need to cut the transmission power
Posted by scot-kiwi over 9 years ago
I thin I won't bother with this site anymore, used to be of use in the old ADSLGuide days.
Now its just a forum for keyboard warriors to spout off on topics they have little or no knowledge on, to try and make themselves feel "smart" and try to ridicule others who actually know what they are talking about.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"using WPA encryption by default (finally!)"

Half the equipment you banged on about does not and will not support WPA or in simple terms its still pointless.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Oh and better quickly say can you pleae for once try to keep the reply to a single post, not whacking the enter key after every line might help you
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
Does anyone understand(or is sick of) scot-kiwi's tech-speak?? - that is the main reason for my reply to harryhound1, who boldly admits he hasnt a clue..
(keep trying mate, perseverence gets results!!)

yes, this section is NOT a forum, it is just a place to talk basic stuff... THE FORUM is the place for complex chat....

Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
(now in 2nd page of archive, time to ignore this one....)
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.