Police highlight user security risk in broadband connections

Police officials have been alerting broadband users to the potential threats posed by unsecured internet connections. A spokesperson for the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency kicked of a campaign aimed at raising public awareness about the dangers of using an unsecured wireless network in residences around the country.

DI Keith McDevitt explained that unsecured wireless networks could allow criminals to act fraudulently via the internet connection of an innocent citizen. This would then wrongly implicate the broadband customer if the illegal activities were ever to be discovered, as the crimes would be traced back to their home address.

Identity theft, virus attacks, hacking and payment card detail theft were highlighted as being amongst the activities that criminals could potentially conduct using an open wireless network. Downloading indecent material and accessing illegal websites could also be possible if a Wi-Fi connection is left without proper protection.

A recent report from a UK broadband provider revealed that over 7 million domestic customers could be unwittingly leaving their wireless connections open to use by anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone or laptop. The problem has been particularly prevalent in Scotland where it is believed that almost every residential street has at least one unsecured connection.

McDevitt said that the solution to the problem was often very simple. Even basic levels of wireless security will make a wireless network far less attractive as a target for criminals and those who do not take appropriate steps are undeniably vulnerable to exploitation and unwanted criminal implication.

Because of the way in which investigations into cyber crime are carried out, the fraudulent use of your wireless connection by a third party would result in a criminal investigation into your own online activities and in many cases the confiscation of computer hardware and any other relevant items from your home.

To a lesser extent the security threat to businesses with unsecured wireless networks could be significant, although utilising domestic broadband connections is believed to make the crimes much harder to trace, with the general public believed to be less aware of the inherent threats. The location of many businesses will also preclude the physical proximity needed to gain access to the network using this approach.

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