Unsecured home Wi-Fi is a terrible idea. Not only does participating in an unsecured network leave you wide open to potential cyberattacks, but it can also get you mixed up in a serious criminal case.
Here are three reasons to avoid criminal investigation by securing your home Wi-Fi:
1. Pedophiles Can Use Your Wi-Fi, You Get Arrested.
Think that title is a bit far-fetched? Just imagine how one New York resident felt in 2011 when federal agents raided his home, leveled assault weapons at him, and accused him of being a child pornographer.
What actually happened? A neighbor had used the man's unsecured Wi-Fi to download child porn; agents had incorrectly assumed that the online activity emanated from the Wi-Fi owner's house.
Still, the unsuspecting homeowner watched FBI agents search and confiscate his and his wife's computer and mobile devices -- only to be cleared of the charges three days later, reports The Associated Press.
The lesson: Protect your home Wi-Fi so that you don't get blamed for the criminal activity of your Internet-mooching neighbors.
2. Neighbors Downloading Illegally, but You Get Charged.
It may be a long time since the days of Napster piracy suits, but lawsuits over Internet piracy are still alive and well. Ask the 31 Internet users (who have yet to be identified) who are being sued for illegally downloading copies of "Dallas Buyers Club." Not alright, alright, alright.
Production companies seek out the IP addresses of downloaders from their Internet service providers (ISPs) -- companies like Comcast and AT&T. These IP addresses, even with unsecured Wi-Fi, are tied to a physical location, typically your router's location. This means that legal demands for copyright infringement will probably be sent to your house.
College students often get nabbed by their colleges for using school Internet for piracy because they have a system for tracking down individual users. But without any protection on home Wi-Fi, most homeowners will be stuck defending themselves against piracy charges.
3. Like Hackers? They Love Your Wi-Fi.
Although there are some ways to identify unwelcome strangers on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, sophisticated criminals can potentially use homeowners as a shield to mask their illegal activities.
There are some ways to protect yourself while surfing public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, but your home network shouldn't be unsecured. If it is, you leave yourself open to being the target of a state or federal investigation you'll wish you never knew about.
Like the hapless New Yorker with unsecured Wi-Fi, you may eventually untangle your innocent self from a legal mess, but why invite the hassle? Secure your home Wi-Fi today.
- Pa. man sentenced for porn using neighbor's Wi-Fi (The Associated Press)
- The 10 Most Pirated TV Shows of 2013 (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Illegal Downloads: What Are the Penalties? (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Apple Security Flaw: Update Software to Thwart Wi-Fi Hackers (FindLaw's Common Law)