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Computer Privacy Annoyances by Dan Tynan

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HOME SWEET NETWORKS

Stop WiFi Drive Bys

The Annoyance:

My home wireless network has been acting funky and some of the settings seem to be changed. What’s going on?

The Fix:

You could be a victim of drive-by hacking. Freeloaders may be taking a joyride on your home network, accessing the Net via your wireless connection or worse, pawing through your system. Keep in mind that a WiFi setup uses radio signals to broadcast data up to 500 feet from the router, which means a network you set up in your home office can easily extend into the street outside your house. In fact, seeking out unprotected WiFi networks—called wardriving—has become a favorite pastime of some geeks (see http://www.wardriving.com). A recent survey of some 225,000 home WiFi networks by http://WorldWideWardrive.com found more than 60 percent were completely wide open. Talk about an entrèe for freeloaders and hackers!

Aside from tightwad neighbors sucking up your Internet bandwidth, you could be a sitting duck for anyone who wants to troll your hard drive for juicy information. Even if your PC is protected with a firewall, somebody could use your LAN to send out malware-laden email or download kiddie porn—and it will be you the Feds are chasing, not the bad guys. To find out if your WiFi network is open, download the free Net Stumbler (http://www.netstumbler.com) and run a scan (see Figure 2-4). If your network is unprotected, it will be listed with a green light next to it. (Secure networks have green lights with locks ...

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