Wireless Home Network Security

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Stu Dent | 02:28 Fri 09th Mar 2007 | Technology
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Why should I secure my network at home if I have a firewall on my laptop and PC, anti virus software, and frequently run anti-spyware utilities?

Surely allowing people to use my network is a good thing?


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Just because you have all of these things, it does not make your laptop 100% safe.

Also, you pay for your broadband, why on earth would you want someone else to steal your bandwidth.
What if they download illegal stuff? It's traceable to you and no-one else.
Question Author
It really doesn't matter to me if someone else "steals" some internet access - I'm paying for it, and I'm happy to do so, and if more of us did the same, we could all enjoy free net access when away from our small home networks when on the move. The city of Norwich now has free wireless net access - exactly as it should be.

If someone else downloads illegal material then it's on their hard-drive, not mine. The fact that it's my network makes no difference. If I keep my car unlocked should I be held liable if someone then steals it to use as the getaway car in a bank robbery?

What I'm saying/asking is - surely I'm as safe as I was from potentially being hacked with my network unsecured as I was before I had a network - since I still hid behind a firewall, and used AV/spyware software. My network is accessible but not my computers themselves surely?
Stu Dent: I agree entirely with where you're coming from. Quite a liberal view.

However, you face a few problems:

- anyone can connect to your network and then read your packet information, which means they can see what you're saying on msn, and to who, and any websites you visit, etc. Everything online that's unencrypted basically. This is a major privacy concern.

- as the law stands, if illegal stuff is downloaded using your connection, it'll be you that has to go to court for it, since you're paying for that connection. A few songs or something illegal like that may not be too bad, but it could be entirely different if someone was downloading child porn or similar on your connection.
It is correct that you would be in court if illegal stuff was downloaded.

I'm interested in why you think wireless access should be free. Someone has to pay to provide it - why should they do it for nothing?

My local library provides 'free' internet access - but it is paid for out of everyone's council tax.
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Thanks fo3nix, that's the kind of info I was looking for - the technical capability to steal or download data even though I'm otherwise well protected.

I'll shall secure my network today. Shame though, because I'd otherwise be happy to share it, and I sometimes get the benefit of using someone else's unsecured network when I'm out and about - for legitimate purposes I add.

Mind you I still can't see how I could be held criminally liable (and I'm a law student) for someone else being in possession of say child pornography. I am not distributing it, nor am I downloading it, and crucially, I would not be the one making, showing, or being in possession of those images, and thus contravening the law as it stands in Scotland. However the thought of someone else being able to do so and perhaps using my connection as a cover to evade being caught is enough to persuade me to get secured. Thanks!
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Ethel I think this internet shuld be freely available to all as a basic right in what's become the information age - and that's the way things are going. Many towns around the UK are exploring how they can provide free wireless access - Norwich is the first to achieve it, but it is also possible in many areas of London apparently.

Again, how can I be held liable for someone else committing a crime? If they store illegal information on MY hard-drive then yes, because I would then be in possession of said material and the onus would be on me to show (on the balance of probability) that it could have been someone else other than me. The onus would then switch to the prosecution to show that it was beyond all reasonable doubt that it could have been anyone other than me.
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Sorry could NOT have been anyone else but me.
Because it is your connection and your responsibility.

If a car owner cannot say who was driving his vehicle when it was caught speeding, he is deemed liable.
As for freedom of information, newspapers are bought, but are available at libraries.

Tv news is broadcast, but you need a licence to access it.

Freedom of information does not mean from cost, it means free from restrictions.

Rights come with responsibilities.

You can get all the information you need, that is available, free from your local library, paid for by council tax payers.

'Free' never is. It is supported by advertising which severely curtails content. This in itself restricts freedom of information, don't you think?
Question Author
What's my responsibility - to secure my network? That's a new law I've not heard about. Where can I find that?

The car owner is 'presumed' to be responsible for the speeding offence. If he/she can show that (on the balance of probability), that someone else could have done it, it is then that the onus switches to the prosecution (the accuser) to prove (beyond reasonable doubt) that it is highly unlikely to have been anyone but me. Remember Neil and Christine Hamilton? Neil Hamilton was accused of speeding many weeks after the offence. He said, well it could have been me, but my wife often drives the car and it may have been her. I can't say I'm guilty If I don't know it was me - you'll have to show that it couldn't have been anyone else but me. The result? Not Guilty!

In any case, where is the evidence? If you are using my connection to download thousands of copyrighted MP3's, it's YOU that has possession of those MP3's, not me! So the car thing is not a particularly good analogy. Show me the law that says I'm responsible for you using my network to download illegal material and I'll do your dishes for a week!

As for the 'free' net access? I think you're splitting hairs. Of course nothing is 'free' - except perhaps the air we breathe (at the moment;-)). But we supply free services to students (tuition fees), the elderly (free personal care and bus passes), as well as legal services to the poorest. 'We' all pay for it, because they are deemed to be of interest to us all as a society. Incidentally, I think TV should be free!

The internet is a great leveller. It gives people the same access to information to those who live in rural areas to those who live in London or Glasgow. Rural citizens DON'T have the same access to paper information as those in the cities.
As the law stands it's the responsibility of the person paying the ISP for internet access that can be arrested. They can easily track what you're downloading, even though it'll only be to your router's MAC address. However, that does mean that it could be you downloading it, watching it then securely erasing it from your hard drive.

Still I agree, it isn't right. But that is as it currently is.

Have more than one computer connected to your wireless network when it's unsecured? Try running and sniffing some packets out. it can sometimes be a bit fiddly to set up (especially wireless receiving), but it's a free app and works well. demonstrates what I was saying above.
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Thanks! I like the tech advice you've given, but strongly disagree with the legal side of things - but maybe the law in England differs with Scotland on this point. In that case we'd be arguing about apples and pears.

I checked out the shark programme - doesn't mean a lot to me to be honest. I can see what you're on about - but looks a wee bit advanced for me. Think I'll just protect my network.
Wireless video phone is the latest addition in this list of ‘Smart Devices’. A wireless video door phone is a safe and most reliable way of guarding the house against stealthy intruders.

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