Don’t let your wifi be pirated

Now that the Digital Economy Bill is now the Digital Economy Act – a piece of legislation that has been bitterly opposed by many – a report in today’s Guardian says that the likelihood for innocent people to be accused of illegal file downloading has greatly increased because of this new law.

The newspaper’s report cites the example of an innocent couple in Scotland who received threatening lawyers’ letters accusing them of allowing illegal peer-to-peer file downloading from their internet account, and what it took for them to resolve it.

One aspect of the Guardian’s report caught my attention as it’s something I notice all the time – unprotected wireless networks that anyone can hop onto and use, often without you even knowing about it.

The paper quotes Andrew Heaney, director of regulation at service provider Talk Talk (which has stated it will not abide by the new law):

[…] "The essential flaw is always the same: copyright holders can link piracy to IP addresses, and these can be matched to a household’s internet account. But there could be tens of people using an IP address – members of your family, visitors, neighbours, or somebody more unscrupulous."

He says the most determined pirates – the criminals – will cover their tracks, hijacking other people’s internet connections if they can.

If you run a wireless network, whether at home or work, and you haven’t securely set it up with even baseline security like user passwords, you’re now asking for real trouble, maybe of the type the Guardian’s story highlights. Relying only on your operating system or router firewall to protect you isn’t enough.

So do yourself a favour – check that your wifi is secure. Best to check the user manual or website of your router manufacturer for a product-specific guide.

A good summary of the Bill (now Act) from PaidContent UK: Digital Economy Bill: Quick Guide To All 45 Measures.

And if you have strong views about the Act, add your voice to Digital Economy Bill Ideas.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Charles

    With the laws likely to be coming into effect with #DEBill, it might be time for people to take their security up a level and use MAC address controls. It’s a pain when you have visitors though, and requires you know what you’re doing in the admin pages of your router. If you’re using an ISP provided wi-fi router you may be out of luck too. Apparently BT’s Home Hub 2.0 doesn’t have the capability, probably because it might confuse users – which leads to a situation where your wi-fi could be hacked (WPA’s better but it’s not impenetrable) and there is nothing you could have done to stop it.

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