Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Are You A Good Enough Person To Keep Your WiFi Open To Strangers?

Downloadin' warez 2 your turbo tax!An older relative was visiting me some years ago and became visibly upset because my wifi network wasn't guarded by a password. "What if somebody gets onto it?" he asked.

"That's the idea," I said. "Wireless Internet should be everywhere, so people can use it."

Questioned about the security, I said it was perfectly okay with me if some doubtful guest looked inside the Time-Warner cable modem or the wifi base station. None of it was connected to any of my computers, right? (I am not sure if this was actually "safe" or not.) Plus, this was before Netflix Instant Video and the Hulu and all this bandwidth-intensive streaming and the four-way HD sex-clone cams, so using somebody's wifi signal usually meant "checking email" or something to do with "hax0rz or Warez," which was sticking it to the man, probably? Remember "warchalking"? This was a retro-hobo hobby for tech kids, who would chalk Depression-era hobo symbols on the buildings that didn't have passwords on the wifi. And then we got our own Depression and it no longer seemed funny to ironically use hobo symbols when so many were reduced to using these symbols to locate stale food and old blankets.

Anyway, now there's a new movement to make wifi free again, even though we have the 4G or whatever on the phones and the iPads. Will freedom finally reign? Probably not, because the general human reaction when confronted with a neighbor streaming Downton Abbey off your already slow broadband is to immediately slap on a password and also to report that person to the police for smoking so much marijuana.

13 Comments / Post A Comment

BadUncle (#153)

Sorry, dude. But my good will towards man stops at sharing the crappy bandwidth Time Warner provides. Also, when I've left my network open, neighbors accidentally blasted their music library onto my sound system.

@BadUncle My Time Warner modem limits me to 14 users at a time. Make that 12, I laid off 2.

BadUncle (#153)

@NotAndersonCooper Hey, why not show off that shiny diamond broach, Glenda Gotrocks?

"I am not sure if this was actually 'safe' or not."

Definitely was not.

deepomega (#1,720)

Dude, that's how you get child pornographers using your internet. Come on.

saythatscool (#101)

@deepomega So what's the downside?

dialectric (#6,128)

With some of the slowest average 'high speed' internet in the world, the US might not be the best country to start this movement. One possibility, though, is to have two-tier access on all routers, a password-protected high speed connection, and an open trickle of bandwidth which would preclude streaming video but allow anon users to check and send email and texts.

Zora O'Neill (#7,051)

We kept our network open for years–we entertained ourselves by renaming it every so often, things like Enjoy Your Free Lunch. It never slowed down terribly. We only closed it, still somewhat reluctantly, because finally the 800th person to comment, a computer security specialist staying at our house, finally convinced us it was a bad idea, in a very reasonable way (unlike all the other scaremongers who were SURE it would lead to DISASTER, but could not explain HOW). He just said, "It's not that there's a huge risk of someone hacking into your computer this way–it's actually very small. The problem is that the damage it could do is so enormous." I still would love it keep it open. I make up for it now by giving away desk space in my office.

Zora O'Neill (#7,051)

@deepomega Can you point me to specific cases of this child porn situation? I still put this kind of story in the same category as razor blades in apples at Halloween.

@Zora O'Neill Just google (sans the quotes) "child pornography open wifi". As someone said, it's not that this is likely, just that if it does happen it would be devastating. For financial and reputation hacking, google "firesheep". It allows someone to trivially masquerade as you on sites that you're logged into if those sites send back cookies via a non-encrypted connection, which many still do.

julebsorry (#5,783)

I love the idea of free and open wifi, but man, people take advantage. My friend moved into the apartment upstairs from me, and I generously shared my wifi password when he first moved in because I know it usually takes FIOS about 2 weeks before they'll come hook you up, and he's a computer professional, so I didn't want him to go without access.

It's now been three months and I can't help but notice that he still hasn't, errr, hooked up his own yet. That shit's expensive, son! Chip in some beer or something, at least!

sigerson (#179)

I have free, unlocked wifi at my Hamptons house. The only catch is that the lawn and the grounds are so large that the wifi transmission doesn't reach the sidewalk or street or any spot of earth not owned by me. So suck it, nerds.

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