A while back I did a post about making sure that you lock down your wifi so that people do not do nefarious things on your connection and get you into trouble. Well, apparently that was not the best “legal” suggestion. Apparently, if your wifi is open and someone does something wrong then, well, it could have been anyone that was using your IP. But if your wifi is closed and something is done wrong (beginning at your IP address) then you are viewed as that much more likely to be the target of an investigation. Afterall, who could have been using your IP? Your wifi was closed!
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), keeping your router OPEN may offer more legal protection than having it closed.
If you run an open wireless network, you may be able to receive significant legal protection from Section 230 of the CDA (against civil and state criminal liability for what others publish through the service) and Section 512 of the DMCA (against copyright claims based on what others use the service for). While these protections are not complete, EFF regularly engages in impact litigation to help ensure that these laws offer as strong protection to network operators as possible.
The fact is that wireless router security is often viewed as something you just set up and then leave alone and it works to keep the bad guys off your line. However, wireless security is relatively weak and much of it can be broken. It won’t be long before the bad guys have access to your locked router and start making trouble. When they do, it will look like YOU are the one making trouble. On the one hand, you hate to give the bad guys a free ride, but on the other hand you would hate to get punished for what they do if they stole your ride and did something inappropriate with it.
I continue to go back and forth on this one. I have gone months with my router open, and then some time with it closed. I usually have to close it due to too much bandwidth being used. My netflix will start lagging (don’t mess with my Sarah Conner Chronicles!) or whatever and I know that someone is getting a little happy with my bandwidth.
It makes me nervous both ways to be honest. I have several houses with teenagers that live around me, all with wireless reach. Do I want them going to sites or performing illegal activities over my router? Nope. Do I want them using up all my bandwidth? Nope. Do I want to be nice and allow for free access? Yes. Do I want to have someone crack my WEP, gain access to my router, and then do unruly things so that it appears it was me? No way! So what I do? What would you do?
My plan is to in general go open wireless. Sometimes I’ll close the open access if I have bandwidth hogging issues and then I’ll open it back up once I think they’ve gotten the point. If you come around and don’t find an open network currently available don’t be discouraged. I have likely gone into non-sharing mode for a short time in order to get the bandwidth hogs to move along and will reopen for public use soon enough. Really, this isn’t much of a change. I like to provide a needed service, and I understand the need for open wireless points. Now that I see there are even legal “goodies” to go along with having it open I feel even better about the way I’ve operated historically and will continue to lean towards open, available wireless.