One in five homes have their WiFi network hacked and their computer interactions recorded with the aid of easy-to-obtain software, experts warn.
“The most a user can do is make sure the password is strong, but even then ‘password security’ is a fallacy,” a researcher told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Tech blogger Stilgherrian agrees with such a contention, arguing Wired Equivalent Protection (WEP) passwords used to protect older WiFi hardware (routers) is an outdated security method.
“If your Wi-Fi is not secured, the Wi-Fi signal is not encrypted, so anyone can sit there with a receiver and record all your information,” he told the SBS.
“The WEP password technique is no longer adequate – if someone wants to crack the password for your WEP it’ll take him about ten minutes.”
WEP security encryption was introduced in 1999 and was replaced four years later in 2003.
Procuring personal information isn’t the only WiFi-related problem. WiFi looters could use your connection to commit fraud or download child pornography; the latter happened in the US and resulted in an innocent man being arrested and verbally assaulted by authorities.
Many just aren’t aware their WiFi network relies on WEP security measures that are easy to breach because their old router appears to be working fine.
“They look at the technology and thinks if it’s not broken don’t fix it. The problem is, it doesn’t look broken,” says Stilgherrian.
“Is it working to defend your data against hackers? That’s not something you can see until it’s too late.”
New setups make use of Wired Point of Access (WPA) and WPA 2 encryption techniques, but even these aren’t infallible to hacks.
“WPA is actually pretty good, but it’s always a matter of time,” says Chris Gatford of ‘ethical hacking’ firm HackLabs. HackLabs tests the security of banks and other big companies.
“But if you make the time required to crack into the network onerous, then you’ll discourage hackers,” Gatford says.
Being an IT whiz is no longer a requisite for hacking a network with step-by-step guides flooding the internet.
In response to WiFi theft, Queensland police have introduced a ‘war driving’ campaign where they search for unprotected/poorly secured networks via a laptop while patrolling an area.
The fraud squad has also published a list of ways to protect residential WiFi networks on its website.