According to a survey, a staggering one out of every two WiFi users in the UK admit to accessing and using someone else wireless internet network without permission. There is a big misapprehension that ‘borrowing’ a bit of someone else’s bandwidth is at the worst cheeky and not illegal but this is not the case. Using an electronics communications service with the intent to avoid paying is an offence under the Communications Act 2003.
A phenomenon known as ‘piggybacking’ is where a user connects up to an unsecured wireless access point and has been a controversial issue since the beginning of the wireless age. This process is made easier by legitimate owners not securing their access points through forgetting or for their own convenience. Along with this, there is an opinion that if someone does not secure their connection then they will just have to accept the consequences of their actions.
Apart from the legal ramifications, other issues arising from you failing to secure an access point are that piggybacking will slow down your connection speed as you are sharing it with another user. In the majority of cases, bandwidth theft is simply about people wanting to avoid paying for services however piggybacking is used as a means of hiding illegal downloading activity or engaging in identity theft.
There is a practice called ‘Wardriving’ where someone uses a WiFi device to scan for networks whilst in a moving vehicle – Some then go on to publish where there are ‘open spots’. To make sure you don’t become a victim of the above, there are a few handy tips to consider below.
- Always make sure that your Wireless Router or Access Point is secured (WPA)
- If possible, use an alphanumeric WiFi password
- If you are willing to share your connection with someone else then don’t leave your WiFi device unsecured and understand what they will potentially be using the connection for
- Most generic WiFi routers come with a default username and password for administration purposes (including changing and resetting WiFi password – it is good practice to change this, especially if you don’t wish you children to have unsolicited connection to WiFi
- Ensure you disable the SSID broadcast on you Access Point this will hide your Wireless access point from unwanted users
- Ensure you configure your MAC filters, this will tie your access point down to only those devices with the MAC addresses you specify
- If you’re going away for the weekend or on holiday, turn off that Access Point. If its not active, it’s not going to be compromised