Wireless Broadband Hijacking - a 21st Century Crime
Posted by Michael Sterios on: 2006-04-28 16:48:55
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For those who may be wondering exactly what the “digital age” is – this may be an indication…
As technology evolves over time so do many aspects of our everyday lives. Increasingly sophisticated technology may help improve the quality of our lives, but it’s not all good news, Sadly, the more sophisticated technology becomes, the more sophisticated criminals become as well.
Take for example the newly born and rapidly evolving crime of “wireless broadband hijacking.” No longer the domain of planes, trains and automobiles – now criminals are taking over the airwaves.
Wireless Broadband hijacking has been brought to the general public’s attention in Europe through a case in the UK which resulted in a Londoner being fined several hundred pounds and sentenced to a conditional discharge for hijacking a wireless broadband connection.
So what exactly is it? Wireless hijacking involves piggybacking an unsecured wireless network without the supplier’s permission. In the London case it is believed that a member of the public piggybacked a wireless network of a local resident by using a laptop while sitting in a car parked outside the residence. The hijacker had been seen in the area on several occasions over a three-month period and was reported to police by a neighbour concerned about suspicious activity.
Currently there is an estimated one million wireless broadband users throughout the UK - one of the most litigious countries in the world. What this could mean is that while this particular court case is believed to be the first of its kind in the country, it is unlikely to be the last. In fact if the USA (which is THE most litigious country in the world) is any indication, this kind of court case may become all too common. Wireless broadband hijacking is a growing trend in the USA, with broadband suppliers increasingly coming under pressure to provide additional security.
If all this seems like the justice system gone mad, consider the case of an American man who was sentenced to nine years in a US jail for the far more serious crime of siphoning credit card numbers over the wireless network of a hardware store. There have also been incidences where pedophiles deliberately leave their wireless networks open so that, if caught, they can claim to police that is wasn't them using the network for illegal purposes, and that it must have been hijacked by someone else.
Such a defense would hold little water, however, as the end user who installed and operates the network has ultimate responsibility for any criminal activity that takes place on that network. This may include launching a hack attack or downloading illegal pornography. Despite this, businesses and residential users continue to fail to take that responsibility seriously by securing their networks. A recent survey found that more than a third of wireless networks in the UK had the basic security features turned off. Most had failed to turn on the encryption that scrambles the data traffic between users and the access point.
It is therefore obvious that the issue of wi-fi hijacking is far more serious that people seeking a free ride on unsecured networks. Prosecuting people for serious crimes committed on such networks could result in a legal arm-wrestle between the actual offender and the supplier who failed to secure their network.
No doubt the courts will issue the blame to one side or the other as more and more cases surface over the next few years. In the meantime, however, it may be for the best to secure your wireless network.
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