Safety & Security

Wifi Freeloading – is Your Wireless Internet Network Secure?

Despite the name, wardriving has little to do with war. Wardriving is the act of searching for wireless networks by a person in a moving vehicle, using a portable computer, smartphone or personal digital assistant.

The term wardriving was coined by American security expert Peter Shipley about 10 years ago and refers to the practice of driving around looking for wireless networks to get online access without paying for it. There are members of the wardriving community who go on networks to see what is available and if your wireless network is unsecured, they can see everything you and your guests are doing online.

Unprotected or unsecured wireless networks are easy to infiltrate and hack. Criminals can then either take over the connection and commit fraud online or steal the personal details of the owner. This is the next step in identity fraud. You may as well put your and your guests’ bank account details, passwords and personal details on a billboard on the side of the road.

Businesses are being advised to take responsibility of their Internet networks and secure them from people ‘sitting out the front’ freeloading off their Internet access. Not only can your Internet access be used up leaving your hotel or resort with no or limited access until your next quota kicks in, but it has been known that some businesses’ wireless Internet has been hacked and used to commit data theft, stalking and other serious crimes such as downloading child exploitation material. You and your guests do not want to become suspects in a serious crime or possibly losing your or their life savings or having your or their identity stolen.

The law that covers accessing wireless connections is not always clear cut. It is always against the law to intercept communications; however the legality of downloading data on an open wireless connection is a grey area.

Australian law does not cover using a neighbouring resorts or household’s wireless network to connect to the Internet without their permission. Anything that people do over your Internet connection looks like it is coming from your resort or hotel. If you do something illegal that raises the attention of the Australian Federal Police or even copyright owners – for example, if people are connecting to your unsecured network and downloading music and movies – that becomes attached to your IP address and that’s traceable through your Internet service provider to your account and you can be prosecuted.

Some resorts and hotels don’t mind how much data their guests download as they may be on an “unlimited” data download/upload plan. In Australia most plans have some type of cap. I suggest you read the fine print of your contract and terms and conditions. Be careful of unlimited plans that “throttle” your network after a certain amount of usage. The provider doesn’t cut off your Internet; they just slow the speed of your Internet to dial up virtually making it impossible and very slow for any usage. You still have access that is “unlimited”; however it is painful for you and your guests to use.

Statistics show that 20% – 30% of wireless networks are not secured at all and many others have security that is easily bypassed. People get a kick out of being where they’re not supposed to be and how far they go with that depends entirely on what class of hacker they fall into. The malicious attack can see people’s bank account details stolen or trying to destroy computers and planting viruses in your network.

The biggest problem that people are unaware of is that out of the box most wireless networks are not secure at all. They’re broadcasting every communication over the network in plain text to anyone who wants to listen.

You need to manage your Internet network, both wireless and wired. Giving your customers unlimited access is your prerogative but knowing who is using your network is your responsibility. You work hard to build and establish your resort or hotel’s reputation and it can be taken away so easily by one person accessing your insecure network.

Cost effective and easy to set up solutions are available.

Judy Senn
Time Out Internet

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