Unsecured Wireless Networks Risk Being Framed for CrimeWritten by: Rodney Print This Article
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Do you have an unsecured wireless network or wireless access point in your home or business? If so, you may think all you have at risk is somebody wasting your bandwidth. But there’s a lot more at risk than megabits per second here. If you’re running unsecured wireless networks, you may be setting up your friends, employees, family and yourself for being scapegoated as child pornography or identify theft criminals.
“Proof” Is An IP Address!?!
Technophobic idiot judges in American courts have decided that an IP address is enough to identify the person who accessed FBI-run porno or identity theft web sites. That the IP address was that of an unsecured access point that anybody driving by the area could have used doesn’t matter. It is as if the government has declared that if somebody breaks into your home to steal a knife and then kills another with it, you as the knife owner are a murderer and should be prosecuted as such.
People who understand how wireless access points work realize that when they are unsecured, anybody can access one. The Internet-facing IP address that will be used for that access is the IP address of the access point, not that of the temporary IP address used by the PC or other device. So some adversary, miscreant, or dirty cop who drives by and notices you’ve got an unsecured access point can use it to access anything he or she wants, leaving evidence in the form of IP addresses on web site access logs that law enforcement can misportray as “proving” that the person owning the wireless access point was the one visiting those sites. If one of those sites is a child porn host, identity theft information exchange, or a FBI honey pot designed to attract criminals, you can end up in a world of trouble even though you personally violated no laws nor did anything immoral.
When you realize how American courts have viewed flimsy evidence such as IP addresses as “proving” a crime conducted by the Internet was done by the person owning the IP address, you should be very afraid of running any unsecured wireless network. This is particularly the case if you are involved in any conflict involving a person in the government, even if that person is only involved because of an ex-spouse making false accusations against you during a divorce or child custody dispute. Far too many government employees are dishonest people who think they get a blanket exemption for perjury, false accusations, and inciting police and CPS harassment against people they don’t like.
Unsecured Wireless Business Networks Also Risky
Providing wireless Internet service to your customers at your business by offering a wireless access point for their use may be setting your employees up to be falsely accused, persecuted, arrested, and imprisoned if somebody accesses illegal content via your wireless access point. The government may execute a search warrant to seize your computers and all your business records, then find the only person in the shop at the time was one of your employees, and then arrest and ruin your employee’s life. That the actual perpetrator was sitting outside your shop in a car within radio range is irrelevant to the government.
It doesn’t take much to find out somebody’s IP address and then use it to frame them. An abusive cop can easily visit your business, access your unsecured wireless network, visit a web page, and find out what the Internet-facing IP address is for your access point. Then to frame you, they can put that address in databases or access logs to make it look like you broke the law by accessing child pornography, identity theft, or other criminal web sites. Law enforcement runs many of these sites, known as “honey pots”, with publicly stated intent to attract perpetrators. But there is nothing to stop them from using their control over these sites to plant evidence to frame people they want to hurt. Cops have been falsely planting evidence on their targets throughout history, but in this age of global communications, now they can plant evidence in their own legitimate domains and then falsely blame the target for putting the evidence there.
Remember, the true function of American law enforcement is not to uphold the law or protect the public. The function is to arrest people, ruin their lives, and to scare the public into thinking such government terrorism is necessary to “keep the public safe” from criminals. Their intent is to justify as necessary the ever-expanding budgets for law enforcement, courts, and jails. Cops protect their job security by framing innocent people. This is especially the case in shoddy law enforcement departments where there is inadequate investigation and prosecution of dirty cops.
If you must risk providing unsecured wireless networks for customers, put them on a separate network address from your business network. For instance, obtain a cable modem connection for your business employees to use and a DSL connection for customers to use via wireless devices. This way, it is far less likely that your adversaries and allied bully cops will be able to convincingly make a case that your employees and you are the criminals when the DSL connection IP address shows up in databases they seized or which they manipulated to frame you.
Weak Security May Be More Dangerous Than No Security
In light of how law enforcement and courts can frame and imprison a person over very weak evidence like an IP address in a FBI honey pot web site log, you might think that having some security on your network may be better than having no security at all. You might be wrong.
WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is a very weak security standard that was broken years ago. Programs are available to crack WEP security, meaning any adversary such as a personality disordered ex-spouse prone to making false allegations or a dirty cop who wants to ruin your life could use some knowledge of you plus a cracking program to get into your wireless network and then frame you for a crime. These people want to ruin you and are willing to take some risks to do it because they benefit from it and even when caught are seldom disciplined appropriately.
Many access points also include a feature known as MAC filtering. A MAC address on most networks is a 6 byte long unique number that corresponds to a particular network adapter. The first 3 bytes identify the issuing organization, such as a manufacturer of a computer or network interface adapter. The last 3 bytes identify a particular device produced by that organization. While MAC addresses are supposed to be unique, it is very easy to modify the MAC address of a computer to make it look like some other computer. For instance, your evil ex could use a MAC address spoofing program to make her Macintosh look like your Dell laptop. From the viewpoint of security logs on the wireless access point and also on many web sites that do not keep track of web browsers and operating systems of visitors, there will be no apparent difference.
WEP and MAC filtering alone or together are not secure enough to keep a determined adversary out of your network. Disturbingly, when they are broken and your network is used for illegal purposes, there will still be a trail of IP addresses belonging to you where they can be used to frame you for the crime. But now the law enforcement and prosecution that is attempting to destroy your life will argue that it wasn’t just an unsecured wireless access point, there was really good security on it that couldn’t be broken by anybody but a real expert. They’d be lying, but that is nothing new for law enforcement and prosecutors. Now it will look all the more to a techno-idiot judge or a jury of ignorant citizens (who likely don’t understand that the government is dishonest and has reasons and means to frame people for crimes they didn’t commit) that you are guilty, even though you simply are a victim of a more skilled and/or determined adversary who was willing to spend an hour or two to crack your network to frame you.
Combine Approaches To Reduce Risk
There’s no sure-fire way to totally secure a wireless network. But you can make it very unlikely that anybody else can get in by using a variety of methods. Some of them simply limit the number of users who can easily find your network, others make it much harder to use the network even if an adversary knows where to find it and has intent to harm you.
Use Secure Passwords and Encryption Keys, Change Them Often
For starters, change all of your passwords and encryption keys on your wireless access point every time there’s a change in family, friend, or employee status. If you get divorced, have a relationship breakup, fire an employee, or are having an argument with a relative, it’s likely these people will know a lot about you and may have had access to passwords on your wireless access point. Change the passwords to something obscure and long, preferably using a mixture of upper and lowercase characters, numbers, and punctuation marks.
Even when there is no change that might seem to trigger a threat, it’s still good to periodically change passwords. This way you are less likely to get a nasty surprise due to some person who visited your home or business three years ago reusing the password or key when they want to be able to anonymously access some Internet site.
Use Many Passwords and Security Keys
Use separate passwords and encryption keys for administrative logins on your wireless access point, logins on your computers, and encryption keys for wireless devices. It is far harder for an adversary to frame you for a crime if they have to break into several different systems using different passwords and security keys.
Don’t Use Default Usernames and Passwords
Never leave default username and passwords in place on any equipment, especially equipment that is visible from a wireless network or from the Internet! If somebody can look up the username and password in a manual or guess that it is “user / password” or “guest / no password”, you are looking for trouble.
Use MAC Address Filters
While MAC address filters on your access point aren’t security in and of themselves, they can help reduce the number of people who can misuse your access point because most people don’t know how to get around them. Periodically remove any addresses for computers you don’t recognize. Be especially sure to get rid of addresses for ex-spouses, ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends, disgruntled former employees, and anybody else who may have an axe to grind against you.
Don’t Broadcast Your SSID
Turn off the SSID broadcasting on your access point. SSID broadcasting is used to announce the presence of an access point. It makes it far easier for some random scumbag to come along and find your access point.
Change Your SSID Periodically
Even after you’ve turned off your SSID broadcasting, anybody who knows about your network is probably also going to know your SSID. Periodically change your SSID to make it a little harder for people who you don’t want to know about your network to be able to find it again.
Upgrade to WPA or WPA2 Encryption
Update any access points you have to provide WPA or WPA2 security. These are far more secure than WEP. If you can’t update the software, replace the access point. Enable the WPA or WPA2 encryption. Use a long security key phrase that is hard to guess.
Consider Updating to 802.11n
If you’re updating access points, you might want to choose upgrading all your equipment to use the newest 802.11n wireless standard. It is faster and more reliable than older 802.11b and 802.11g access points. Further, if you get rid of all the older 802.11b/g equipment or update it to use 802.11n, you can turn off backwards compatibility on the access point, thus making it inaccessible to the larger population of users who continue to use older wireless gear. Again, this isn’t security, it is simply reducing the number of people who can cause trouble as there are far fewer people using 802.11n today than there are using 802.11b and 802.11g.
Taking this further, 802.11n over 2.4GHz bands is more common than 802.11n over 5GHz bands. Given this, you could chose to use the later as far fewer computers have ability to access wireless networks on the 5GHz spectrum.
Turn On Access Point Firewalls
Most consumer level access points have routers built into them. These routers often include simple firewall features. Turn them on. Generally they don’t do much if anything to protect against wireless users causing trouble for you, but what they do is to block bad users out in the Internet from attacking your network from afar. Malware placed onto other people’s PCs is often is used to commit crimes that can result in you being falsely prosecuted for those crimes. Firewalls make it harder to hack into a PC or access point to put malware in place or turn off security features to make the network easier to hack.
Put Firewalls and Virus Scanners On Your PCs
Don’t depend solely upon the firewall in your access point or router. Put a firewall and a virus scanner on every PC. Keep them updated regularly.
Check And Erase Your Logs
Check the security logs on your access point periodically, looking for any signs of illicit activity. Such illicit activity might show up as unknown PCs being assigned IP addresses and notices of security settings being changed that weren’t caused by you. After checking, clear the logs. This will leave less information around for somebody who does manage to hack your access point use against you, meaning that you might safe an infrequently visiting friend or relative from being framed for a crime.
Limit Transmit Power
Many wireless access points can be set to use a lower maximum power level for transmissions. While this impairs range and may increase network communications errors, it does make it harder for a person outside your home or business to access your network. Some people may find that setting the access point to use a lower transmit power is adequate for their purposes and helps to keep people from driving by or parking outside and being able to detect the network.
Similarly, using 5GHz spectrum rather than 2.4GHz has similar effect. 5GHz penetrates buildings less effectively than 2.4GHz, limiting range. Combine the use of 5GHz spectrum with limited transmit power and you might even be able to tune your wireless network so that nobody can access it unless they are inside your home or business, adding an element of physical security since they can’t get inside without being physically allowed inside.
Limit Hours of Access
Many consumer access points and routers have features that can be used to limit the hours which PCs can access the Internet. While the original intention of these features might have been to keep wayward kids from playing games or chatting up a friend at 3 AM when they should be sleeping, they can just as easily be used to turn off access to the Internet during late night hours when nobody in your home or business should be using it.
Consider Switching to 3G/4G Wireless Networks
If you’re really concerned about your wireless network being hacked to frame you, you might want to simply get rid of it and switch to using a 3G or 4G wireless network from a wireless service provider such as Sprint or Verizon. While these are often more expensive and slower than using a wireless access point to extend access to a DSL or cable modem tied to an Internet service provider, they decouple your wired IP address from having anything to do with wireless access. They are also available everywhere in most big cities, meaning that you’d still have Internet access if you drag around your laptop or netbook to appointments and activities outside your home and business.
Creating Your Own Honeypots or Decoys
If you’ve got major concerns about being framed for illegal computer usage via a wireless access point or suspect somebody may be trying to do this to you, you might consider taking things a step further and setting up some old 802.11b/g access points to attract attackers, distract them from your main wireless access points, and meanwhile capture some information on them.
Most access points used by consumers have local wired Ethernet ports. You can take an old access point and use a laptop or other computer connected to the local side of the device to set it up to do more or less the inverse of the recommendations above. The idea is to make this decoy or honeypot access point clearly visible to attract attackers to it first.
- Disconnect the access point from the Internet. You don’t want anybody to be able to really reach anything that might be used to incriminate you, you just want to prove that people are hopping on access points in your area and to capture information about them.
- Connect your PC or laptop on the local side switch ports.
- Reset the access point to factory defaults.
- Log in to the access point and establish new passwords that are unusual and unpredictable so they will be secure. Even though you are setting this access point up to be a “sacrificial decoy” you want to make sure the logs on it won’t be erased. You want to be able to periodically save these logs to use for evidence that others are logging on to your equipment as that both establishes that there’s somebody using wireless access points in the area that’s not you and also get clues to help identify them.
- Select a common radio band (2.4GHz range) and common wireless protocol such as 802.11b or 802.11g to ensure that many wireless users will be able to see the device. Try to avoid using a channel that anybody else is using to minimize the adverse impact to other wireless users in the area.
- Assign an SSID that may be notable or provocative to attract attention. For instance, name it “Cops Are Liars” or “Sex Kitten Playground” to make low-life people curious. Or if you’ve got a political message, put that in your SSID — for instance “Vote Out Judge xxx”.
- Turn on the SSID broadcasting.
- Turn up transmit power to maximum, making the access point readily visible.
- Don’t turn on any wireless security. Make this access point a tempting target.
- Turn off MAC address filters. You want any attacker to be able to use this access point.
- Open up access 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
- Unplug your PC, then position the access point where it will get maximum range. For instance, the 2nd floor on the street side of your home could be a good location.
- Check back every so often to see what’s going on with unauthorized wireless users and to save the logs that prove this usage. Do this by temporarily plugging in your PC to a wired Ethernet port on the local side and then logging in and viewing and saving the log files.
By examining the logs on the access point, you can determine if anybody is trying to connect to it and get some information about the attacker. You generally will be able to see the attacker’s MAC address. While this can be spoofed, many attackers may not be sophisticated enough to know how to do this. From that MAC address, you may be able to find the make of their laptop computer or wireless adapter.
If you’re a bit more intent to send a message, you might look into how to redirect the attacker to a specific web site to try to discourage them from war-driving or hacking access points in your area again. Some access points allow forcing users who log on to be redirected to a particular site. In other cases, you can create a similar effect by using an old PC connected to the Internet or WAN side of the wireless router to log the access and redirect to a web page hosted on the PC.
For instance, you could point them to a web page that says something to the effect that they’ve been caught accessing a wireless access point which they were not authorized to access and that information on their computer has been collected and will be forwarded to the police and FBI. That is likely to scare off many people except perhaps government types who are trying to frame you since they believe they are above the law.
Setting up such tools is beyond the scope of this article, but here are some links to get you started if you’re interested.
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