Almost one-third of Americans admit to using their neighbor’s wireless internet connection according to the Wifi Alliance Trade Alliance. While most people are using these connections innocently, there are some that will take advantage of an open wireless network. Securing your wireless network at your home or business is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from those that would use your internet connection for nefarious purposes.
What Can Happen if You Don’t Secure Your Wireless Network
First and foremost, if you have a data usage cap on your internet – particularly if you use a form of wireless hotspot from your cellular provider – having others on it can push you over your limit far quicker than you would like. This can cost you many hundreds of dollars in overage charges that you didn’t even incur!
Secondly, if you leave file sharing open across your wireless network, anyone who can connect to the network can see your files. That means that if you have a document with all your passwords or bank account numbers on your computer, it could potentially be stumbled upon by someone using your wireless signal. Who knows what the wrong person would do with that information?
Finally, people can use your internet connection to do whatever they want online without your permission. This includes normal things like checking their email or browsing the web, but it also includes things like using a stolen credit card for purchases or viewing illegal content. Regardless of what people are doing online, their activities can be traced back to the internet connection they were using – in this case, yours. On the off chance that something unsavory does cross your internet connection, you will be the person the authorities go after first. Mind you, in most cases charges will either not be filed or dropped after further investigation, but between the time lost and the possible stigma of the accusation, it can be a terrible thing to endure. A lawyer based out of New York is currently representing two clients that were facing child pornography charges from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, something that could have cost them over $100,000 in legal fees had it gone to court.
What Can Happen if You Use Someone Else’s Unsecured Wireless Network
While it is extremely hard to be caught using someone else’s wireless network without their permission, it is worth mentioning that in Michigan, “unauthorized use of computer access” laws are on the books, and they carry varying penalties from a misdemeanor to a felony charge (which carries a 5-year sentence and a $100,000 fine).
You also don’t know what kinds of software the individual may be using on their network. Some particularly malicious people can have programs running that intercept the information your computer is sending to gain access to any websites, usernames, or passwords that you type in.
How Can I Protect Myself?
The answer is very simple. If your wireless network has a password on it, it is far less likely to be used by unauthorized individuals than one without. Wireless network passwords can be cracked, but many people who are looking to cause trouble are looking for the easiest route and will move on to someone’s wireless network that doesn’t have a password. If you suspect that your wireless password may have been compromised, then it’s time to change it.
Do you use your neighbors internet? Are you worried about your neighbors using your internet? Discuss below.