I ran across a piece published at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), that is trying to convince people that leaving your wi-fi router “open” is a good thing. What’s crazy is that they can be suggesting this non-sense in the wake of stories of open-wi-fi abuse leading to some pretty rough consequences. They even link to a story about the federal agents breaking down an innocent man’s door. His open-wi-fi was used by someone else for nefarious purposes; the feds assumed it was him because it was his router. After the break, I’ll give you 3 reasons why the EFF is off it’s rocker on this issue.
- Idealism rarely resembles reality. I admit that I would love to live in a world where things were shared and people used those shared things wisely and considered other people when they used them. But much like the way some people trash-up our national parks, while other people treasure them, idealism is usually quite far removed from reality. Hurray for the honest citizens, but they can’t negate the pedophiles and identity thieves out there.
- We need more security not less. Identity theft is an epidemic in today’s world. While the last figures I read (somewhere) put digital theft far behind cases where identity theft was the result of a physical breach (e.g. stealing snail mail, over-the-shoulder P.I.N. snatching, etc.) when electronic identity theft occurs, thousands (if not millions) of people are compromised. While those cases are attacking national brands, the small-time identity thieves in your town are a getting smarter and smarter. One day they’ll stop sifting through your trash and start attacking your wi-fi to get to your home computers.
- Bandwidth can get clogged pretty quick. OK, so putting fear aside, let’s get practical. In my home, with multiple users, even though we have the top-tier bandwidth package for our high-speed internet – by the time you add Netflix, XBOX-Live, YouTube, Apple Software Update, etc. – we hit our bandwidth ceiling often. Too many times I’ve had to remind the kids that I am paying for the connection so they can turn off the XBOX until after I’m done with my streaming movie. I can’t even imagine the headache if my whole neighborhood is using it.
I’m not saying that every wi-fi network needs to be closed, but they don’t all need to be open either. Our church wi-fi is open, but it is not connected to any sensitive data either. Sometimes open-wi-fi makes sense, but most of the time it does not. The EFF’s utopian idealism is cute, but not practical – especially given that the protocols that they say would make open-wi-fi risk free, by their own admission, do not exist yet.