We've all done it: found an unencrypted Wi-Fi connection and decided to piggyback on an unsuspecting neighbor's Web hookup -- even if it was only a temporary fix while we waited for a repairman, or until we could get cable installed in a new apartment. According to a recent poll conducted by Wakefield Research and the Wi-Fi Alliance, 32-percent of respondents admitted to trying to steal a neighbor's Wi-Fi
connection at some point, a significant increase over the 18-percent that copped to the same crime (and yes, it is
illegal) in 2008. The concern here isn't with the actual theft or breach of trust -- although you should probably feel a little guilty about that, you sneaky bastard. It's that unencrypted Wi-Fi connections pose a serious security risk. Using an unencrypted connection leaves your accounts vulnerable to readily available hacking tools like Firesheep
. Some, like Chet Wisniewski of Sophos, aren't afraid to do a little fear-mongering to convince people to lock down their Wi-Fi connections. As he told USA Today, pedophiles and terrorists
could easily take advantage of your unencrypted connection.
The danger, however, goes both ways. Yes, those with Wi-Fi routers should turn on any security features they can, but mooching exposes you to just as many dangers. Chances are that if you can get onto a Wi-Fi network, you're probably not the only one who has realized this. Any log-in or credit card information you enter is just being passed through the air for someone to snag.