For Crying out Loud... Password Protect Your Wireless Router!

A debate that somehow always seems to pop up in my own life is the importance of securing your WiFi / wireless router. My friends have all gotten my lecture. My family has all gotten my lecture.

My friends-of-friends have all gotten it, too. Over the years, I've dialed it down from, Leave now. Just leave. Go home. Password protect your router before you do anything else, to something like, Oh no, it's fiiiiiine. The only thing you risk is some jailtime and a few phone calls to the ACLU. Otherwise, it's fine to run an open router.

And somehow despite stories showing up in MSN like this one about the Buffalo man who didn't secure his wireless router, people still think I'm exaggerating the risk and/or that, "it won't happen to me... I know my neighbors!"

Right. Ok. Copy that. Roger. Gotchya. You can leave yours open then. Really. It's fine.

For the record, once and for all: being lazy is never a valid excuse in the eyes of the law. Being inept seldom works either. Same goes for ignorance.

The single biggest thing YOU need to understand about wireless security is this:

Just because you can't see someone else using your wireless connection doesn't mean it isn't happening.

The same thing goes for PC security, too:

Just because you can't see the person who's infected your PC with some sort of spyware or trojan doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

Now let's talk about the poor guy in Buffalo, NY. According to the MSN piece,

For two hours that March morning in Buffalo, agents tapped away at the homeowner's desktop computer, eventually taking it with them, along with the iPads and iPhones belonging to him and his wife.

"Within three days, investigators determined that the homeowner had been telling the truth: If someone was downloading child pornography through his wireless signal, it wasn't him. About a week later, agents arrested a 25-year-old neighbor and charged him with distribution of child pornography.

"The case is pending in federal court.

All this because, again according to the piece, That new wireless router. He'd gotten fed up trying to set a password.

How many other people have had similar things happen is anyone's guess. Here are a couple of more stories the MSN article mentions specifically,

  1. A Sarasota, Florida, man, got a similar visit from the FBI last year after someone on a boat docked in a marina outside his building used a potato chip can as an antenna to boost his wireless signal and download an astounding 10 million images of child porn.
  2. A North Syracuse, New York, man who... opened his door to police who'd been following an electronic trail of illegal videos and images. The man's neighbor pleaded guilty April 12.

The fact of the matter is, yes, it can be tricky, but it's not that hard. In fact, we have a simple six-step article at our site on, "How to Secure Your Wireless Connection."

You could read it and take the steps to secure your connection. Or you could spend the time thinking of what your excuse is going to be when someone steals your Internet connection and does terrible things with it.