According to Sophos, many internet-enabled homes fail to properly secure their wireless connection properly with passwords and encryption, allowing freeloading passers-by and neighbours to steal internet access rather than paying an internet service provider (ISP) for their own. In addition, while businesses often have security measures in place to protect the Wi-Fi networks within their offices from attack, Sophos experts note that remote users working from home could prove to be a weak link in corporate defences.
Stealing Wi-Fi internet access may feel like a victimless crime, but it deprives ISPs of revenue. Furthermore, if you've hopped onto your next door neighbours' wireless broadband connection to illegally download movies and music from the net, chances are that you are also slowing down their internet access and impacting on their download limit. For this reason, most ISPs put a clause in their contracts ordering users not to share access with neighbours - but it's very hard for them to enforce this.
Sophos recommends that home owners and businesses alike set up their networks with security in mind, ensuring that strong encryption is in place to prevent hackers from eavesdropping on communications and potentially stealing usernames, passwords and other confidential information.Have you ever used someone else's Wi-Fi connection without their permission?
Sophos online survey, 560 respondents, 31 October - 6 November 2007.