It's been said that leaving your Wi-Fi network unprotected is hazardous, and that notion was proved to be precise with a recent case in New York. On March 7, a Buffalo man and his wife were rudely awakened when officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement broke down their door. Downloaded child pornography was the reason for the commotion. In the end, the agents had the wrong house, but it was a perfect example of why you should protect your home's Wi-Fi network with a password.
The case began on February 11 after an agent logged on to a peer-to-peer file sharing program from his Department of Homeland Security office. The agent connected to a user dubbed “Doldrum” and began to sift through his shared images and videos. The agent soon noticed images and video of children participating in sexual acts, which prompted them to locate Doldrum's IP address. The agent then contacted the offender's internet service provider and asked them to provide the subscriber's identity.
While the subscriber's identity definitely helped narrow down the list of perpetrators, it was not the final solution, as their Wi-Fi network was unprotected and open to other internet users in the area. Still, ICE agents proceeded to enter the house with the router in question. After searching through the homeowners' computers, iPads, and other devices, they were found to be not guilty. The predator, however, was still not found.
To catch the predator, agents accessed the peer-to-peer network once again to view Doldrum's logs. They saw that Doldrum connected from IP addresses associated with the State University of New York at Buffalo. The also noticed that the secure token used to connect was assigned to a student living next door to the aforementioned homeowners with the unprotected Wi-Fi network. That student, John Luchetti, was finally arrested on March 17. He pleaded not guilty to the distribution of child pornography. The couple whose home was broken into received an apology from Lev Kubiak, Special Agent in Charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as U.S. Attorney William Hochul.
Although the Buffalo homeowner was finally clear in any wrongdoing, the case showed the possible consequences of leaving your Wi-Fi network unprotected. After all, what if the ICE agents never found Mr. Luchetti? Would the homeowner have taken the rap? The answer is unknown, but the simple act of protecting the network with a password would have saved a lot of trouble.
Criminal investigations are not the only cases where internet subscribers have faced possible legal trouble. Many have had to fight accusations of illegally downloading music or movies, when it was someone else logged on to their networks that actually did the deed. Considering the lawsuits that have popped up due to illegal downloading, the consequences from a lack of protection are severe as ever, criminal or not. Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University's Law School, summed the issue up nicely when he said, “Whether you're guilty or not, you look like the suspect.”
In short, be sure to protect your wireless router with a password.
For more on this topic, visit http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110424/ap_on_hi_te/us_wi_fi_warning
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