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Broadband squatters could be stealing your bandwidth

May 19, 20032 mins
BroadbandMobileNetwork Security

* Avoid theft of service in home offices

Many people can’t be bothered with turning on basic wireless LAN security at home. But even if you aren’t transmitting data that requires confidentiality, you might be opening yourself up to theft of service – that is, someone picking up your signal and piggybacking on your broadband connection to the Internet (the one you pay for and they don’t).

This comes to mind for a couple of reasons. First, cellular/Wi-Fi pioneer T-Mobile announced an industry first earlier this month: a package discount and integrated billing to customers who use the carrier’s cellular voice services and Wi-Fi hot spot services. The subscription to the hot spot service is $19.99 per month for unlimited access – quite an attractive package for heavy data users such as business travelers.

Current Analysis, a competitive intelligence firm, pointed out that some consumers who live near T-Mobile Wi-Fi hot spots might sign up for the dual-mode service as a way to get inexpensive broadband Internet access. In other words, if they live close to a Starbucks coffee shop, they can hop right on the Wi-Fi network from home and gain Internet access over the shop’s T-1, DSL or other backhaul.

The same thing is possible when it comes to unsecured home networks. I happen to know some people who make frequent out-of-town trips to visit elderly parents and telecommute from there. The parents are not of the broadband era; in fact, they were still renting their black phones from The Phone Company until last year.

However, the aforementioned telecommuters, now with wireless-enabled laptops, effortlessly discovered a neighbor’s WLAN simply by powering up their PCs at the folks’. Voila! They have broadband connectivity through Good Neighbor Sam’s network connection when visiting the ‘rents. Have they told “Sam” about it yet? Nope.

As more ways to use the Internet emerge, your upload/download speeds will become increasingly precious. And as the use of wireless also picks up, you might want to protect your WLAN from providing outside access to your broadband connection and the congestion that might result.


Joanie Wexler is an independent writer and editor who has spent 20+ years writing about computer networking technologies, their business potential, and implementation considerations. She serves clients at technology companies and industry publications writing educational materials on all aspects of IT.

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