TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Take the Trouble to Block WiFi Poachers

Take the Trouble to Block WiFi Poachers

Monty Solomon (
Mon, 25 Oct 2004 15:49:43 -0400

By Hiawatha Bray

If you have wireless Internet access at home, your next-door neighbor
could have it as well, without paying for it. He can just use yours.
No problem if he's just shopping on or e-mailing Grandma.
But what if he's sending spam messages or downloading kiddie porn?

It happens, and that should surprise nobody. WiFi wireless networking
systems can provide Internet service up to 300 feet away, with signals
that can punch through brick walls. So anybody within range can get a
taste of your bandwidth, and use it for any purpose, noble or
malignant. It's up to them.

Actually it's up to you. With a little effort, you can seal off your
WiFi router from unwelcome guests. If you leave it unprotected, it
could become a hangout for a variety of digital sleazebags.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I have some comments and questions
about this: On my Wi-fi card (Netgear MA-521, 32-bit cardbus) I was
lucky for a while to get twenty feet away, in other words, my
computer area and into the next room. But I could barely get outside
my house, and certainly not into my parlor or my bedroom. A cheap
piece of cardboard and tinfoil (serving as a reflector to push the
signal around helped with that.) Now I can get my parlor/bedroom
areas, my back porch/back yard and *most* of my front yard. I have
noticed that when I get out to the sidewalk on the street in front
of my house, when my signal is still there but mostly unuseable, on
the 'site survey' tab on the MA-521 diagnostics, I see listed not
only my base unit, but also the base unit of the guy directly across
the street from me. I can move my mouse onto either of these locations
(mine or his), click for connection and connect with either one.

I assume this is how 'hackers' (i.e. spammers, kiddie-porn downloaders)
work, am I correct? When I have clicked on his base-station (and like
mine, he gets maybe a couple hundred feet, out into the street and
onto the sidewalk on *my side* then his gives out also) I get a
message on my screen saying 'to connect with this channel please enter
the proper encryption.' I use 128-bit encryption, which I guess is
what he uses also. Right or wrong? I have no idea what *he* uses for
encryption and I surely have not told anyone what I use. I am not
going to sit out on the sidewalk in front of my house, which the one
place I can contact his station and try to hack out his encryption
password, etc. I would not have the patience for it. But unlike him,
I guess, I also told my base station 'do not broadcast your own name'.
Tell me if I am correct: when I get to the one point on the sidewalk
where I can pick him up, my 'site survey' not only lists me, but also
lists him. I assume -- tell me if right or wrong -- if some other
person with a WiFi card (other than *myself*) came to the same spot
they would see his station -- 2WIRE895 -- waiting for someone to
provide the proper encryption, but they would NOT see me. Right or
wrong? I see myself listed, because it is me, but having it set to
'not broadcast your own name' keeps others from seeing me. Right or wrong?

Now what else should I do, or can I do within reason, to stay protected?
The house next door to me, across the alley to the west is vacant. But
let's say tomorrow it got rented to 'hackers', spammers and kiddie-
pornography downloaders; yes, unlikely, but still ... unlike the house
across the street where distance separates us, the house across the alley
from me *is* within radio range; a warm, comfortable, off-the-street,
out of your car hiding place. Is there anything I can do other
than 'do not broadcast your name' and 128-bit encryption for protection?
Or is it a needless worry? PAT]

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