Don't let child pornographers share your connection!
July 9, 2002 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Don't let child pornographers share your connection! Now that sharing your Wi-Fi connection with the unwashed masses has become so popular - the BigCo's are trying to shut it down. We've talked about this here and here but I was blown away by this marketing speak from a AOL Time Warner VP

"By having an open transmission, it leaves you really vulnerable," Digeso said. "If you have a Wi-Fi connection in a public park, what would stop, God forbid, a child pornographer or, God forbid, a terrorist using that network?"

Are terroists using your Wi-Fi connection?
posted by dhacker (30 comments total)
Or, God forbid, God!
posted by pracowity at 9:26 AM on July 9, 2002

In other words..."If you don't use AOL dialup...the terrorists have already won."

posted by dejah420 at 9:27 AM on July 9, 2002

I had to add WEP to my AP a few weeks ago, when I found out that a new neighbor was using my AP to send out spam for his website. Worse than child-porn or terrorists, he was prostelyzing dot-net! =p
posted by nomisxid at 9:32 AM on July 9, 2002

I think a terrorist used the men's room at my office! Let's ban all men's rooms! Don't let the terrorists win!
posted by briank at 9:33 AM on July 9, 2002

I think a terrorist used the men's room at my office!

Did he leave an evil floater?
posted by ColdChef at 9:35 AM on July 9, 2002

I'm hearing more and more talk of charging for bandwidth by the byte, and this looks like another nail in that coffin.

Imagine no longer paying $50 a month for unlimited DSL access, but instead paying the same price for 6-10Gb of metered traffic on that DSL line. With a plan like that, every email would cost you something, however small, and downloading big software or game demos might incur additional charges. Heck, you probably couldn't watch quicktime videos from news sites with a bandwidth cap like that.

AOL/TW sounds pretty pissed off about this, and they're not going to let people get away without paying.

Oh, there was a major error in the article. They mention how wireless groups like to expand wireless with additional antennas, but they make it sound like they want to blanket an entire neighborhood with wireless. That couldn't be further from the truth. The NoCat guys are all about making specialized, long-range signals that are very narrow. Instead of covering a one-mile square area, they're interested in connecting two points that are miles away, then putting a small base station at the endpoints. Some of the long-range signals are quite compact and require aiming tolerances of just a few inches here and there to catch the signal. In the article, it sounds like people wouldn't buy a DSL line if their city was just coated "for free" with waves paid for by one person's cable modem.

posted by mathowie at 9:36 AM on July 9, 2002

Or... or... or... what if scaremongering idiots could use your network? Iyee!
posted by majick at 9:36 AM on July 9, 2002

Imagine no longer paying $50 a month for unlimited DSL access, but instead paying the same price for 6-10Gb of metered traffic on that DSL line.

Imagine how completely a competitor that offers unlimited access would eat their lunch.
posted by straight at 9:39 AM on July 9, 2002

They must really see this as a serious threat - or else its a slow news cycle so it gets reported that way. Outside of my geeky friends I know very very few people who know what Wi-Fi is, what it entails or even how cool it would be to use it. Sounds like they're trying to squash early adopters in hopes that it keeps the technology down.
posted by dhacker at 9:47 AM on July 9, 2002

They might as well shut down all the Kinkos, net cafes, and library internet access points too, while they're at it!

Terrorists use Kinkos too, ya' know.
posted by mkn at 9:56 AM on July 9, 2002

Pedophiles and terrorists? I thought this was a joke at first. While they're preying on people's fears, why don't they just add drug dealers who lace lollipops with cocaine to the list.

I guess his original statement "What would stop a college student from researching his papers using your connection, or God forbid, a businessman e-mailing home on his break!"
posted by geoff. at 10:11 AM on July 9, 2002

This has been a hot topic of discussion on the NYCwireless mailing list as well. The general consensus seems to be, switch to an ISP that allows sharing, as there are at least a few out there (, AceDSL, Speakeasy) that are completely fine with the practice.
posted by nstop at 10:31 AM on July 9, 2002

I'm a bit more concerned about the security of my computers on the connection than about types of content.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:36 AM on July 9, 2002

Well, I think that people really do underestimate the potential problems of unsecured wireless networks. All of my geeky friends are always poaching DSL from their neigbors, sniffing their AIM sessions when they're bored, and the like. They're not actually going out and owning boxes, but that's only because they've outgrown that in general. It's a running joke.

And then one of my roommates friends said the other day, "Hey - you all should get one of those wireless networks. Those are really cool - then you wouldn't have to string cables through your apartment." When I said "Enh... I'd rather not have people poaching our DSL or hacking our machines," his response was "They can do that?"

Using child porn and terrorism as bogeymen doesn't do much for one's credibility, but the problem is real.
posted by jaek at 10:46 AM on July 9, 2002

"If you have a Wi-Fi connection in a public park, what would stop, God forbid, someone from not lining the pockets of Steve Case?"
posted by Xkot at 10:46 AM on July 9, 2002

Wireless is digging its own grave without encouraging security. I wonder what % of these wireless owners have no clue anyone with a wireless card can use their connection.

I doubt it, most of the free services around here (seattle) offer only a limited amount of ports, http, https, telnet, etc...

wireless is like anything else, you could cut and paste any thing in your statement from the computer world and it would still be true. in the meantime I will continue to use wireless for 90% of my connections.

and so will many people out there, its easy, and you cant stop people from buying inferior unsecure hardware, when there are alternatives, people still buy PC's
posted by vincentmeanie at 11:18 AM on July 9, 2002

Speaking of wireless security, does anyone know of online tutorials about setting up ssh tunnels on winxp and osx laptops? My home wireless network is fine, but I hate checking email and sending my unencrypted password out in the air at conferences. I'd prefer a bit more security on those networks.

I know you can ssh to a remote server, then run all your traffic encrypted through that, but I'm not that l33t to know exactly how it's done in osx or xp.
posted by mathowie at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2002

mathowie: You should check out the documentation for your SSH client because all of them do it a bit differently. Most of them also have graphical tools for setting up a tunnel.

For most WinXP clients the command line goes something like this (for IMAP with the client):

ssh2 -L

This creates a tunnel from port 1234 to port 143 on

Then you set your mail reader to localhost:1234

A simpler alternative is to use an SSL connection to your mail server. This is supported by most mail readers.

Another alternative is:
ssh2 -L

This creates a connection to and forwards the connection (unencrypted) to this is good if you don't trust the local network (Like WiFi)
but anything beyond your local network is sent in plaintext.
Here is a FAQ
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:28 PM on July 9, 2002

I'm more concerned about terrorists and pornographers using all of that cell phone spectrum to call each other. Something has to be done.
posted by mecran01 at 12:33 PM on July 9, 2002

how about terrorists and child pornographers using THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM!!!!

ohmygod, that little old lady might be planning some evil plan. we really need to start asking for IDs on buses and subways. if not, you know who's already won.
posted by signal at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2002

thank god only child porn consumers are using my WiFi!
posted by quonsar at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2002

mathowie, it's all way over my head, but does this help?
posted by yerfatma at 1:05 PM on July 9, 2002

Imagine no longer paying $50 a month for unlimited DSL access, but instead paying the same price for 6-10Gb of metered traffic on that DSL line.

Imagine how completely a competitor that offers unlimited access would eat their lunch.

Imagine how quickly a competitor that offers unlimited access would have to double or triple their prices because all the high-bandwidth users switched to their service.
posted by kindall at 1:51 PM on July 9, 2002

Are terrorists using your Wi-Fi connection?

Nope. I've got mine locked down; unless terrorists are using my iBook when I'm not looking, they can't get into my WiFi. (Assuming, of course, that the Airport security features accomplish what they say they do.)

Since getting my Airport card, I've been stunned by the number of unsecured networks that exist in downtown DC. In a one-block span of K Street, there are at least four open connections through which a casual user could sit on the street-corner and surf the web - or something far more sinister.

For those who aren't from DC, K Street is where many of the most famous high-powered law firms and lobbyists have their offices.

There are also a few password-secured networks downtown that I imagine could be cracked by anyone with a modicum of talent - especially those that proudly advertise the name of their organizations. (e.g. "National Association of Unsecured WiFi Network Administrators.")
posted by mikewas at 2:35 PM on July 9, 2002

Nope. I've got mine locked down; unless terrorists are using my iBook when I'm not looking, they can't get into my WiFi. (Assuming, of course, that the Airport security features accomplish what they say they do.)

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but...

AirSnort is a wireless LAN (WLAN) tool which recovers encryption keys. AirSnort operates by passively monitoring transmissions, computing the encryption key when enough packets have been gathered....

Any linux script kiddy can bust thru your WEP, it takes a bit more to do the same attacks from windows, but it is still possible.

You also might note that the open networks you are seeing might very well be intentionally open, people sharing their networks. Its perfectly possible to do this in a very secure way (put all your machines behind a separate firewall, for example), and is kind of a charming bit of technosocialism if you ask me.

I'm definitely happy with the group that wifi'd the park near my apartment and left it open for anyone to use.
posted by malphigian at 2:58 PM on July 9, 2002

My bad, I had thought Airport was still running with 40-bit encryption, but I see they upgraded in mid-2000, so you'd have to have an older model for there to be a real risk. Thx for the correction skallas.
posted by malphigian at 4:10 PM on July 9, 2002

As long as you don't have shares enabled (and you shouldn't if you're on broadband anyway - probably shouldn't if you're on dial-up either), who cares about WEP. Couldn't anybody on my cable modem's network node could probably sniff my packets if they wanted to anyway. Why protect the data from my computer to the router when it's open hunting season once it gets past the router?

And as for leaching bandwidth - who cares. So my neighbor wants to leach my access - help yourself. As long as it doesn't impact my performance what do I care?
posted by willnot at 4:55 PM on July 9, 2002

Given the RIAA's potential stance of taking song-sharers to court, you might not feel quite so blase about letting others share your bandwidth. Perhaps that's the cabal in the making, the RIAA and AOL band together, set up some poor sot sharing his net, sue him into oblivion, and then say, "see, our regulations against sharing are to protect you"
posted by nomisxid at 5:03 PM on July 9, 2002

skallas - you're right. Cable Modem networks are much more complex and difficult to hack than I believed. Google's cache contains an interesting primer on the subject.

I suppose your examples of misuse of my network resources are within the realm of possibility. The former certainly seems a good deal more likely than the latter.

I don't know. I still don't care that much. The file trader would be a minor annoyance, but ultimately not that big a deal. If I notice reduced performance, then I guess I'll check my router's logs and possibly disable a port or 2. The spammer doesn't seem too likely to me. Maybe I'm naive, but I'm not too worried about getting hit by a drunk driver either.

For the record, none of my neighbors seem to have discovered my unsecured network. Maybe if they ever do, I will start to be annoyed, but the theory of it doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.
posted by willnot at 11:00 PM on July 9, 2002

I hope John Ashcroft is laboring away mightily to produce a mutant combination terrorist/child molester, so we can safely keep all of our alarmism pointing in a single, easily-identified direction. I'm seeing a guy wearing a guttrah who could run down Pennsylvania Ave with a nuke strapped to his back while simultaneously sodomizing a cub scout. Clearly, someone squat and swarthy with firm, load-bearing thighs is in order.
posted by umberto at 11:29 PM on July 9, 2002

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