As the popularity of wireless networks in homes and small businesses continues to soar, so do the chances that outsiders will hack unsecured networks and use them for malicious purposes.
Very few home and business owners realize the importance of securing their networks and the risks they incur by not doing so. It is often up to solution providers to solve the problem. Fortunately, several methods and products are available to help mend the holes.
Michael Young, principal at Connected Homes, a San Jose, Calif.-based home integrator, says the starting point is often helping customers realize the implications of not securing their wireless networks.
"You try not to scare people too much, but they need to realize [the impact]," Young says. For example, Young notes that a home's unsecured wireless network could be used by a neighbor for downloading copyrighted material. It is often difficult to determine who on a network downloaded particular files, so the network owner could be sued by the Recording Industry Association of America or other organizations.
Kevin Bankston, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, says there haven't yet been cases of homeowners in the United States prosecuted for the activities of other users who access their WLANs to conduct criminal activity. "However, it could lead to that house being the first step in the investigation," Bankston notes.