If your Wi-Fi is not secured, a neighbor could be downloading
pirated movies via your internet connection.
IT security and control firm Sophos is warning computer users of
the importance of properly securing their Wi-Fi networks following
reports that people who
illegally download music and films may have their internet
subscriptions cancelled. The proposed Green Paper, which the
Government is due to unveil next week, will require internet
service providers (ISPs) to take action against the estimated six
million users a year in the UK who access pirated material.
Sophos experts note that this legislation could cause headaches
for both ISPs and Wi-Fi users, as customers can claim that other
people have been illegally piggybacking on their internet service.
Last November, a Sophos poll of 560 computer users revealed that
have stolen Wi-Fi internet access in the past.
"Pressure is being put on ISPs to take action, but an open Wi-Fi
hotspot may mean that it is you who ends up disconnected from the
net while your next door neighbor is happily watching the Hollywood
blockbuster they stole via your internet connection," said Graham Cluley, senior
technology consultant at Sophos. "People who illegally download
from the net material they haven't paid for aren't going to have
any qualms about stealing someone else's internet connection. The
widespread scale of the problem not only means that there are
likely to be innocent victims, but it also gives those people who
have been making illegal downloads a plausible defense."
Under a 'three-strikes' regime, customers making illegal
downloads will first receive an email warning, then a suspension of
their account, and finally termination of their contract. According
to reports, ISPs that fail to enforce the rules could be prosecuted
and details of suspected customers passed onto the courts.
"The ISPs are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place
- they are being leaned on by the movie and music industry to block
pirate downloads, but at the same time they don't want to alienate
their customers by accusing them of something they didn't do,"
explained Cluley. "There is no 100% solution for blocking illegal
downloads which doesn't also inconvenience the innocent."
Sophos recommends that home owners and businesses alike set up
their wireless networks with security in mind, ensuring that strong
encryption is in place to prevent neighbours from illegally using
their internet connection, and crucially to also defend against the
risks of hackers eavesdropping on communications and potentially
stealing usernames, passwords and other confidential
"If you're not encrypting your wireless communications, anyone
close by can easily use your connection and while the intention may
not always be malicious, the consequences can be severe," continued
Cluley. "All internet users need to wake up to the threats and ISPs
must take greater steps to educate customers about the risks and
how to overcome them."
Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.