The police knock on your door. They confirm who you are and the car you own. Next thing you know they are reading you your rights and cuffing you in front of your family and neighbors. Down at the station they ask how you could plow into a crowded bus stop, killing and injuring people, and just drive off. Wait! That wasn’t me! I was at home all day! Sir, there were dents, blood, and hair on your car parked out front.
Oh, wait, you know I leave my car unlocked with the keys in the sun visor. You know, just in case someone needs to borrow my car. I was at home. It must have been someone else.
Uh huh. Tell it to the judge and you better have a good lawyer.
Extreme example? Sure, but if you don’t lock down your home wifi, you’re doing essentially the same thing for Internet access. Think I’m kidding?
The three stories all fall along the same theme: a Buffalo man, Sarasota man, and Syracuse man all found themselves being raided by the FBI or police after their wireless networks were allegedly used to download child pornography. “You’re a creep… just admit it,” one FBI agent was quoted saying to the accused party. In all three cases, the accused ended up getting off the hook after their files were examined and neighbors were found to be responsible for downloading child porn via unsecured WiFi networks.
link:FBI child porn raid a strong argument for locking down WiFi networks
Not so extreme is it? Maybe your neighbor isn’t trying to download all the porn in the world through your connection, but they could be downloading pirated movies, programs, or even just streaming Netflix for their enjoyment. And that’s the benign stuff.
What about accessing your other computers, stealing information, or installing malware? All possible, all simple to do if you don’t put a password on your wifi.
Today’s routers and machines are fast enough that the encryption overhead isn’t a problem. Yeah, you have to enter a password in for all the devices, but you only have to do it once. And since you only need to enter the password once, pick a good one. When you enable a password on your home wifi you should take the WPA2 option (WEP is about as good as those ubiquitous, cheap luggage locks and WPA is good, but outdated) and use a password that is at least 20 characters long. Yes, 20 characters. Come on, if you’re going to be secure, don’t play around, WPA2 isn’t really secure unless the password is ≥20 characters. Remember you only have to enter the password once per device.
Some routers (including newer versions of Apple AirPort Extreme) allow a “guest access” setting, which while convenient for people visiting you, but still leaves you open to having your access pilfered for nefarious deeds. I’ve had guest access on my network from time to time, but since your public IP is tied to you individually and your ISP account I don’t think it’s a good idea.
Don’t be a patsy, just lock your network down.