I honestly hate saying ‘I told you so.’
For years I have been telling everyone who will listen (and a lot of people who didn’t want to) about the importance of securing wireless networks. I’ve told stories about the possible consequences, and have scared some of them into doing the right thing. Unfortunately far too often my pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Don’t get me wrong… like anyone else who has ever hopped on an unsecured access point to check my e-mail, I appreciate that so many people have made it unnecessary to actually hack secured wireless networks – which of course might be considered illegal so I would never actually do it. However my convenience should be trumped by the well-being of the masses.
As was reported by Carolyn Thompson in the Toronto Star (c/o Associated Press) there have been several cases recently where innocent albeit naive wifi users have gotten a very rude awakening. At least one such user was awakened very rudely by heavily armed agents of the FBI and/or ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raiding their houses after having tracked child pornographers to their networks (See the full article at http://www.thestar.com/living/article/979849–no-password-on-your-wi-fi-this-nightmare-could-happen-to-you).
The Internet is so often equated to the Wild West… a potentially lawless society with hoodlums and gangsters and very little law enforcement to speak of… and it’s true. A friend of mine who works in cyber-crime for a major American law enforcement agency confirmed that it likely only 1-3% of cyber-criminals are ever arrested. With that being said, the Wild West had sheriffs, posses, and eventually the US Army. SOME cyber-criminals are pursued, arrested, and convicted.
I don’t know what percentage of cyber-criminals captured are child-pornographers, but I would not be surprised if it was a very high number, and for good reason. I do know that of all criminals, most law enforcement officers view them as the lowest of the low – as the AP article demonstrates they are seldom arrested politely and calmly. I have heard of several cases of mistaken identity because child pornographers are smart enough to try to cover their tracks, and the difference between them going through you or not is as simple as a couple of check-boxes and a password on your wireless access point… so what’s stopping you?
If you are uncomfortable trying to configure this encryption and password yourself, I implore you once again to ask for help, or if you must take your router to a Geek-Squad-type service who will do it for you. Trust me, it is a small investment compared to what could happen.