[color=red]I know this isn't the kind of topic we normally post about here, but i thought it was rather important. Mods, if you think it's inappropriate please feel free to delete it..... [/color]
Recently i have been looking into buying a new laptop comptuer as some of you well know. Before i made my purchase, i borrowed a laptop and used it in my home. I thought for sure i would have to hook it up to my broadband cable to get internet service (as i didn't have a wireless router) but to my surprise i immediately found a wireless (Wi-Fi) signal that i could hook into. In fact there were TWO - obviously my neighbors are "hooked up" and i was able to tap into their networking capabilities. (now keep in mind that my neighbors are NOT physically that close to my house - ie: it's not an apartment building where the signal is only travelling through a wall; it's crossing many YARDS [meters] of property and walls)
Initially I giggled and very much enjoyed the ability of sitting in my living room on the net instead of my upstairs office (chained to a cable) all due to the generosity of my neighbors (who i know and like, btw). I could log in and stay logged in ALL DAY! I wasn't hurting them, just dorking around here and elsewhere, checking my emails...
But it got me thinking very seriously about security issues. If i could tap into my neighbors' service so easily, who could tap into MINE when i got my wireless router??.... So i started researching security options for different routers and came across some really scary articles all espousing the great NEED for encryption in wireless networks. I won't go into details about identity theft - that's pretty much a given. (and a scary one). But what also scared the crap out of me was that more than one article made mention of people looking for networks to download child porn (CP).
Yes. It's true. They mentioned how people drive around looking for Wi-Fi signals, park their cars and then sit and download CP using YOUR service for their perversions. It's so easy. They now sell those little key fobs that can identify a signal - all you have to do is drive around, find a signal, pull out your laptop with cigarette lighter power adapter, hook into someone's unguarded network and have at it.... You see, the network will assign an ISP address to each computer that logs onto its network. If the computer is moved to another network, a new ISP is given. It's damned hard to track.
So please, please, please. If you have a wireless router DO NOT assume you're the only one using it!! Check and make sure it's encrypted so that only those who know your network's password ("key") can log on. Assume that the signals travel WELL OUTSIDE of your house and potentially could be picked up by someone you don't even know in the next house or on the street.
Log on, download, disappear - what a scary thought.
Check your software, please. That's my PSA for the day.