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Wireless Security    Blame the victims?

Having read dozens of online posts blaming the victims for break-ins to their unsecured wireless networks in their homes or home offices, I decided it was time to present a different perspective.

Imagine, if you will, that automobile manufacturers decided it would be more profitable to sell automobiles with the brake lines disconnected. A warning to connect the brake lines would be placed inside the oil pan. Auto salespeople would have no financial incentive to warn their prospective customers, for fear that people would decide that preparing a new car for actual use was more trouble than it was worth. Auto mechanics, in online forums, would openly make fun of the "idiots" who wrapped their brand new cars around trees, because they didn't know to first connect the brake lines.

It gets better. Gradually, people without mechanical backgrounds either learned to connect their brake lines themselves or hired a mechanic to do it for them. But, every time someone called the auto dealer with a problem with their car, the first words out of the technician's mouth were, "Disconnect the brake lines."

Sound far fetched? It's not. One of my clients, a very intelligent and successful businessperson, for whom I secured a home office wireless network, had a similar experience. One day, he casually mentioned that he recently had trouble with his internet connection and called his ISP for assistance. Before discovering that there was a temporary area-wide outage, the technician had him -- you guessed it-- hold in the wireless router's reset button for ten seconds. [To my non-technical readers: this disabled the security we had set up on the router, and reset it to its factory defaults.] My response was something like, "Unplug the router and wait until I get there."

Feel free to blame wireless hardware vendors, for selling unsecured equipment, and technical support personnel, for nearly always having people reset their wireless access points/routers to their [unsecured] factory defaults, but please do not blame consumers, who are merely victims of unfortunate marketing practices and support policies. As Woody Hays would probably say, "A few things can happen with unsecured wireless networks, and most of them ain't good." Don't let one of them involve you trespassing on your neighbor.

Copyright © 2007 Craig Herberg

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