Email Delivery

Receive new posts as email.

Email address

Syndicate this site

RSS | Atom


About This Site
Contact Us
Privacy Policy


November 2010
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        

Stories by Category

Basics :: Basics
Casting :: Casting Listen In Podcasts Videocasts
Culture :: Culture Hacking
Deals :: Deals
Future :: Future
Hardware :: Hardware Adapters Appliances Chips Consumer Electronics Gaming Home Entertainment Music Photography Video Gadgets Mesh Monitoring and Testing PDAs Phones Smartphones
Industry :: Industry Conferences Financial Free Health Legal Research Vendor analysis
International :: International
Media :: Media Locally cached Streaming
Metro-Scale Networks :: Metro-Scale Networks Community Networking Municipal
Network Types :: Network Types Broadband Wireless Cellular 2.5G and 3G 4G Power Line Satellite
News :: News Mainstream Media
Politics :: Politics Regulation Sock Puppets
Schedules :: Schedules
Security :: Security 802.1X
Site Specific :: Site Specific Administrative Detail April Fool's Blogging Book review Cluelessness Guest Commentary History Humor Self-Promotion Unique Wee-Fi Who's Hot Today?
Software :: Software Open Source
Spectrum :: Spectrum 60 GHz
Standards :: Standards 802.11a 802.11ac 802.11ad 802.11e 802.11g 802.11n 802.20 Bluetooth MIMO UWB WiGig WiMAX ZigBee
Transportation and Lodging :: Transportation and Lodging Air Travel Aquatic Commuting Hotels Rails
Unclassified :: Unclassified
Vertical Markets :: Vertical Markets Academia Enterprise WLAN Switches Home Hot Spot Aggregators Hot Spot Advertising Road Warrior Roaming Libraries Location Medical Public Safety Residential Rural SOHO Small-Medium Sized Business Universities Utilities wISP
Voice :: Voice


November 2010 | October 2010 | September 2010 | August 2010 | July 2010 | June 2010 | May 2010 | April 2010 | March 2010 | February 2010 | January 2010 | December 2009 | November 2009 | October 2009 | September 2009 | August 2009 | July 2009 | June 2009 | May 2009 | April 2009 | March 2009 | February 2009 | January 2009 | December 2008 | November 2008 | October 2008 | September 2008 | August 2008 | July 2008 | June 2008 | May 2008 | April 2008 | March 2008 | February 2008 | January 2008 | December 2007 | November 2007 | October 2007 | September 2007 | August 2007 | July 2007 | June 2007 | May 2007 | April 2007 | March 2007 | February 2007 | January 2007 | December 2006 | November 2006 | October 2006 | September 2006 | August 2006 | July 2006 | June 2006 | May 2006 | April 2006 | March 2006 | February 2006 | January 2006 | December 2005 | November 2005 | October 2005 | September 2005 | August 2005 | July 2005 | June 2005 | May 2005 | April 2005 | March 2005 | February 2005 | January 2005 | December 2004 | November 2004 | October 2004 | September 2004 | August 2004 | July 2004 | June 2004 | May 2004 | April 2004 | March 2004 | February 2004 | January 2004 | December 2003 | November 2003 | October 2003 | September 2003 | August 2003 | July 2003 | June 2003 | May 2003 | April 2003 | March 2003 | February 2003 | January 2003 | December 2002 | November 2002 | October 2002 | September 2002 | August 2002 | July 2002 | June 2002 | May 2002 | April 2002 | March 2002 | February 2002 | January 2002 | December 2001 | November 2001 | October 2001 | September 2001 | August 2001 | July 2001 | June 2001 | May 2001 | April 2001 |

Recent Entries

In-Flight Wi-Fi and In-Flight Bombs
Can WPA Protect against Firesheep on Same Network?
Southwest Sets In-Flight Wi-Fi at $5
Eye-Fi Adds a View for Web Access
Firesheep Makes Sidejacking Easy
Wi-Fi Direct Certification Starts
Decaf on the Starbucks Digital Network
Google Did Snag Passwords
WiMax and LTE Not Technically 4G by ITU Standards
AT&T Wi-Fi Connections Keep High Growth with Free Service

Site Philosophy

This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator. Part of the FM Tech advertising network.


Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2010 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.

Powered by
Movable Type

« Metro Round-Up: Long Island, St. Louis (Mo.), Yuma (Ariz.) | Main | FCC Tells Pittsburgh Incumbent: Make Poles Available »

February 12, 2007

Washington Post Says Open Wi-Fi Attracts Criminals

This appears to be a news article, but it's got a strong slant towards monitoring: The article presents a sensational opening! Child porn being downloaded! A warrant! Pounding on a door! But it's only an elderly lady, and she's not even stealing music. No, we get the specious fact that the police are powerless to apprehend a villain because the elderly lady is fiendishly operating an unprotected Wi-Fi access point. "Perhaps one of those neighbors, authorities said, was stealthily uploading photographs of nude children. Doing so essentially rendered him or her untraceable," the reporter writes. Not so much: Traditional police work coupled with an exact geographic location should have provided enough clues.

But apparently open Wi-Fi is a huge danger because this reporter hasn't heard of anonymizer and randomizer services that allow anyone at any public terminal--Wi-Fi, college campus, or even, gasp, at a workplace--to be used in a fairly untraceable manner. In fact, probably more untraceably than hopping on a free or open Wi-Fi location and abusing it, assuming security through security.

This quote is rather telling in the same manner: "Unsecured networks are a treasure trove for neighbors," said John Sheehan, program manager of the CyberTipline at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "Those looking to access illegal content obviously feel they have anonymity" and can get away with it.

Again, if neighbors are gaining access, then it's easier to trap those neighbors through monitoring. They may "feel they have anonymity," but they have quite a bit less because of proximity.

And here's a nice piece of opinion right smack in the middle of the article: "Open wireless signals are akin to leaving your front door wide open all day -- and returning home to find that someone has stolen your belongings and left a mess that needs cleaning."

No, it's more like having an endless pot of coffee that you're willing to let anyone pour a cup from, even though you're paying for the electricity. The coffee is essentially free, because you're paying a fixed amount for unlimited java. The "front door wide open" argument applies when you intend to close your network and fail to; don't understand that your network can be closed (and if you did, would prefer to); or you're an incumbent Internet service provider arguing that bits aren't bits: one set of bits must be paid for differently than another, and sharing access is theft.

(I don't think that every ISP must allow sharing, and I do agree in following the terms of service agreed to. But given that the terms for broadband are essentially coercive due to the effect in the US of having no nondiscriminatory access by competitive providers for wireline access to homes, that means that the market hasn't decided that not allowing sharing is a reasonable way of doing business.)

The reporter also notes, "Closing cases is more difficult if the IP address originated from a wireless signal because it often leads back to the owner of the network instead of the criminal." That's only true if you're thinking about abusers has working from single locations. The writer notes that with an increasing number of open access points, the problem will get worse. Again, that assumes that you have thousands of people roaming across extremely wide areas to gain access. It's more likely that people act within a relatively small distance from their home, making a pattern of abuse easier to track down: "Hey, that guy downloaded child porn here, here, and here, so he probably lives about here."

The interesting point here is not that this story is biased towards a particularly naive view of law enforcement or the idea that there must be millions of people engaged in illegal activity over open Wi-FI networks; nor that open Wi-Fi networks are de facto bad and/or unintentional; or that this story has been told better, with greater balance, in other publications over the last couple of years.

No, what's interesting is that more and more home networks are being locked down. In informal and formal surveys by myself and companies involved in monitoring this sort of activity, an increasing number of home networks are locked down with strong WPA security, making them more or less impenetrable to even determined access. (WPA isn't perfect, but it takes a fair amount of effort to break a weak WPA passphrase--too much effort for a casual "anonymous user.")

So I would have cast this story as--how will law enforcement adapt when people can connect from anywhere at high speed and get on and off networks fast? How will individuals and companies who want to share access, whether from home or in a coffeeshop or even at an entire airport (Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc.) cope with law-enforcement demands? What's the rate of change for securing home networks against easy access? Those questions would probably have interesting answers.

1 Comment

Interesting article, and nice views, with which I agree. One of the reasons we stopped doing the WorldWide WarDrive ( was that we saw awareness of the dangers involved in running open hotspots was increasing, which was one of the aims of our exercise. I estimate that over 50% of wireless access points / routers now run some form of encryption, at least in areas with large penetration of WiFi. The guys at WiGLE also have nice stats on this.

Major ISPs in Spain have been delivering WiFi ADSL routers with WEP enabled by default for about a year.