In March, the Queensland Police started the War Driving Project to highlight the urgent need for secure wireless internet connections. Police are driving the streets of Queensland, searching for unsecured WiFi coming from houses and businesses. Wireless internet signals can have a range of up to 100 metres, so a household connection can be accessible from well outside the home. When an open or poorly secured WiFi access point is found, it is logged by Queensland Police, who will later send a letter with information on how to secure WiFi access points (such as routers).
'Unsecured' WiFi connections have no password: open access to the WiFi access point is available to anyone with a compatible device. WiFi access points considered 'poorly secured' are those that were set up using older security measures, such as Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). WEP is an encryption system that utilises a security technique developed in 1999 and was outdated and replaced in 2003 by WiFi Protected Access (WPA). As Detective Superintendent Brian Hay said in a statement for the Queensland Police Service News:
'Having WEP encryption is like using a closed screen door as your sole means of security at home. The WPA or WPA2 security encryption is certainly what we would recommend as it offers a high degree of protection.'
The consequences of leaving your network poorly or not at all secure can be devastating. Unsecured networks can be easy to hack, which means unscrupulous people can steal your online identity and download illegal content on your connection. You could even be landed with responsibility for these actions as it's difficult to prove that the person using your wireless internet wasn't you!
The results from Queensland Police's war driving efforts are yet to be seen but previous studies across Australia indicate an alarming number of unsecured connections from homes and businesses. So make sure your WiFi is being used by you ... and only you! Here's how.
This post has been adapted from an article by Mark Gregory originally published at The Conversation.
Image credit: Flickr/frans16611