Wi-fi Pornography Case Spotlights Need For Internet Security

Apr 26, 2011, 15:47 by John Steele

A Buffalo, NY man was falsely accused of possession of child pornography by federal agents in March, the Associated Press reported Sunday, when a sting operation detected a download of thousands of lewd images coming over his wi-fi network. The download was later traced to the man's neighbor, who is set to be arraigned in federal court later this month.

The incident, which led to a confiscation of all the man's mobile devices as well as a thorough sweep of his hard drive, underscores the need for wi-fi security--a form of protection that many lack, even in our highly connected society.

According to a Wakefield Research study commissioned by Buffalo activists Wi-Fi Alliance, 32 percent of the respondents admitted that they tried to access Wi-Fi networks that they do not own.

This incident is not the first time federal agents have kicked in the wrong door. The Associated Press reported Sunday that hundreds of these raids have been documented anecdotally online, as well as more egregious incidents that made the papers.

For example, a Sarasota, Fla. man got a similar visit from the FBI last year after someone on a boat docked in a marina outside his building used a potato chip can as an antenna to boost his wireless signal and download an astounding 10 million images of child porn, or the North Syracuse, N.Y., man who in December 2009 opened his door to police who'd been following an electronic trail of illegal videos and images. The man's neighbor pleaded guilty April 12.

Law enforcement agencies and router manufacturers alike recommend that users make their networks invisible to others by disabling the identifier broadcasting function that allows wireless access points to announce their presence. The government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team also advises users to replace any default network names or passwords, since those are widely known, and to keep an eye on the manufacturer's website for security patches or updates.