Home WiFi users warned over lax security

Two people have been cautioned for using people’s wi-fi broadband internet connections without permission, according to the BBC.

There was a segment on this story on Radio 4’s PM program this evening. Some guy from West Mercia police was scare-mongering about people with unsecured WiFi connections being accused of terrorism or child pornography offenses if someone piggy-backed their network to carry out such crimes.

Normally I would be against the use of such scare tactics by the authorities.

However, counter-intuitively, I think West Mercia police’s approach in this instance could be useful – but not for the reasons the spokesperson outlined.

With this publicity stunt, the police have created an incentive for the people who control the security of private WiFi networks – i.e. Joe Average “bought it from PC world, plugged it in, forgot about it” users – to improve the security of said networks. Perhaps more importantly, they’re helping to create a market of people who want WiFi products to be secure out-of-the-box. On balance, that is probably a Good Thing[TM].

I am not saying that network providers in general (e.g. ISPs; search engines) should be held accountable for the actions of their users; or that hapless home WiFi users should really be prosecuted for crimes committed via their network by wardrivers. Just that if home WiFi network security is to be improved, there has to be some incentive for users and vendors to make it happen.

Maybe this publicity stunt will provide that incentive.