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A Buffalo, NY, man gets an early morning visit (and alleged contusions) from the ICE: His left his Wi-Fi network open, and extremely poor FBI work (according to this AP report) led to a raid on his home because that's where the IP address led. While it's no crime in the US—it is in some other countries—to leave your network open for anyone to access, this isn't the first time this has happened. I've written up a few previous similar incidents that led to police or federal agents breaking down the doors for criminal acts conducted over the network at the physical address. In most cases, a neighbor is the guilty party.
You'd think the FBI would be briefing agents on this issue, so that they don't face multi-million-dollar lawsuits for faulty work that pinpoints the wrong person. The Buffalo man isn't suing, even though his attorney alleges he was thrown down the stairs by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He says they didn't properly identify who they were after breaking down the door and brandishing weapons. (Who knows from ICE?)
Even on an open network, it's possible to track identifiers that would allow relatively easy confirmation of which machine was the case, or to stake out the area for a few nights, tracking signals and locations. Then agents could enlist the homeowner with the open network to ensure the Wi-Fi signal remained available and could be used to track at which exact moment that a perpetrator was engaged in an illegal act and then raided at the same time. (We're talking child pornography here, not file swapping.)
The AP article says that US-CERT recommends "closing" a Wi-Fi network among other security measures. This option, labeled differently on each maker's router software, disables default beaconing, and thus the network name and availability isn't broadcast. However, whenever the network is use by a party that knows the name and has associated with it (encryption or otherwise), traffic can be snooped and connection information extracted. I don't recommend closing a network as it provides no effective security, and neither does limiting an network to specific MAC addresses (the Wi-Fi adapter's unique hardware number).
US-CERT has six recommendations for best home practices on its Securing Wireless Networks page, which include these two. Closing a network is noted as "Protect Your SSID."
Really, using a nine-letter/digit WPA password is the simplest way to protect a network in a reliable and secure way no matter what other restrictions are in place.
I choose to password protect my network in part because I don't want to be indirectly responsible for anyone's actions on my network (whether in a raid or just because someone commits a nefarious act using my router), and because Comcast caps my use at 250 GB per month.
A new mode in Eye-Fi X2 cards let you rely images through a smartphone using a neat trick: I'm a long-time fan of the Eye-Fi digital camera cards that pack a CPU, a Wi-Fi radio, and now up to 8 GB of storage into an SD or SDHC form factor. The Eye-Fi line is regularly updated to add features like transfer of RAW images or video files, or endless storage, in which images already wirelessly transferred to another location can be deleted when storage is needed. (I haven't erased my Eye-Fi camera card since that feature came out. I simply don't need to know what's on the card any more.)
Direct Mode is another in that array of improvements, and it requires a little explanation. Eye-Fi may be a bit breezy in describing the feature, which requires you to think a bit differently about how the card works.
In regular operation, an Eye-Fi card looks to a camera precisely like any memory card. Whenever the Eye-Fi recognizes a Wi-Fi network it knows about, it connects, and starts to carry out whatever operations were waiting for access, such as uploading files to a computer or sharing service. This works whether the network in question is a home network for which you've stored a password, a public network to which you have access through an Eye-Fi subscription, or a free network tied in via Eye-Fi's relationship with Devicescape's Easy WiFi service.
But in Direct Mode, the card will transform from a Wi-Fi client into a Wi-Fi hotspot, but not for just any device to connect. Rather, if you have a smartphone or tablet with the Eye-Fi software running (available for iOS and Android initially), the app connects to the card over Wi-Fi, and images are transferred over. You can use a 3G-equipped device to relay and upload images and movies, or transfer media and then connect via Wi-Fi to a network to upload that data from the app. The mobile app can copy media over the Internet to whatever computer with which you paired the Eye-Fi—the one to which over a local network the card sends files—as well as an online sharing or social-networking site you've picked from Eye-Fi's partners.
Direct Mode was announced with more details alongside the release of the Mobile X2, part of a reshuffling of the Eye-Fi line up, which now comprises Connect X2, Mobile X2, and Pro X2. The Connect has 4 GB and costs $50, while the Mobile has 8 GB and costs $80. That's their only difference. The Pro at $150 and with 8 GB of storage adds RAW file handling, and including a geotagging and a 1-year hotspot subscription. While RAW is restricted to the Pro model, you can add geotagging to Connect or Mobile for $30 (one-time fee), and hotspot access for $30/yr.
Direct Mode will be a firmware upgrade for all current and past X2 models in a few weeks, according to Eye-Fi.
The train line from New York to Connecticut is testing service: The Internet service would be used to drive passenger access, as well as live information on screens in cars coupled with advertising. For now, the MTA isn't revealing which train is equipped during this trial so as not to disappoint riders.
Some palpable numbers: Air Transport World quotes US Airways president saying that usage averages below 5 percent of passengers on flights, and breakeven is above 20 percent. They only have the service on about 50 planes (their Airbus A321s), which lack power outlets. By only covering part of their fleet, as opposed to Delta which has full coverage on mainline planes, they may undermine patterns of usage that build up over time.
Wi-Fi Networking News celebrates its tenth anniversary: Thank you all for sticking with me all of these years! There's less news that relevant as Wi-Fi hit the mainstream, routers are simpler to configure, and the industry matured. I'll keep reporting for as long as there are topics of interest—and you all are still reading.