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UPDATE UK Wireless Broadband Hijacking Found to be Common

Posted: 27th Nov, 2009 By: MarkJ
wirelessThe latest survey of over 2000 British adults by Moneysupermarket has revealed that 9% admitted to using a wireless ( Wi-Fi ) network without the owner’s permission in the last 12 months. Furthermore 47% of broadband ISP consumers now have a wireless network at home but many fail to secure it, which could lead to hijackers making unlawful use of such connections for illegal downloading or other malicious acts.

In addition, one in five (19%) wireless users are not password protecting their Internet at home or admit they don’t know if they have password protection in place. This is particularly worrying given the recently proposed new laws, which could see those who are "suspected" of repeated involvement with illegal downloading being disconnected from their ISP.
Most popular activities for broadband hijackers:
* General browsing (77%)
* Emailing (68%)
* Download large files (13%)
* Steaming content e.g. Spotify/BBC iPlayer (12%)
* Downloading adult content (4%)
One recent survey of 1,083 UK wireless network connections by TalkTalk warned that 5% were completely open (no security), 36% used WEP encryption (easily hackable), 56% used WPA encryption (fairly secure but not perfect) and only 3% used the best WPA2 solution (here).

Yet despite these security risks, one in four people (24%) admit they are not aware that anyone in range can access an unprotected wireless network without the owner’s knowledge, and a further one in 14 people (7%) thought hijacking was not possible. Some 15% of those doing the hijacking do not feel guilty about it.

Those looking to secure their wireless network should check out our 'Top 10 Wireless (Wi-Fi) Security Tips' article. Most modern ISPs also give you the ability to track how much data is being consumed on your network, which can be used a bit like a bank account for spotting irregular activity/peaks.

UPDATE 1:31pm

OUT-LAW has comments from Lilian Edwards - Professor of Internet Law at the University of Sheffield, whom warns that the new Digital Economy Bill could mean an end to the sharing of free public Wi-Fi hotspot Internet access.

The Bill says that action can be taken not just against someone suspected of infringing copyright but also against "a subscriber to an internet access service [who] has allowed another person to use the service, and that other person has infringed the owner’s copyright by means of the service".

In other words, the network owner is responsible, calling into serious doubt the future of any publicly accessible wireless network that does not use security (see above for why security isn't always enough). Interestingly the EU E-Commerce Directive, which was made UK law as the E-Commerce Regulations, effectively makes network providers immune from liability for the actions of their users while they are ignorant of those actions.

So now the UK's Digital Economy Bill is not only unworkable but it will also conflict with yet more EU laws.
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