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Warsitting

I was surprised the other day when I was having trouble connecting to our access point from our back porch (those durn metal door- and window frames!) and out of curiosity, turned on site survey and saw three other addresses pop up - all un-encrypted and one offering direct access to somebody's PC. Since we don't have all that many neighboring houses, it would probably be pretty easy to figure out who the networks belong to and talk to them about, at a minimum, turning WEP on. Should I?

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3 or 4 show up in my list too (not my own, I don't broadcast, duh). I asked two of the neighbors who didn't know what on earth I was talking about. I have two others who they may belong to - and I don't talk to them. In my bedroom, one of the neighbor's routers has a stronger signal than my own.

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I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from having an open access points. WiFi is one of those goods that becomes more useful the more it is voluntarily shared--eventually you get to a point where you can expect access everywhere due to the goodwill of your neighbors, and you reciprocate.

WEP is fairly trivial to crack--any determined attacker will get through the WEP almost immeditaely. It's much more important to secure the computer itself, which is more likely to be attacked over the Internet then by someone who happens to be walking by. WEP tends gives people a false sense of security/privacy. Sure, WEP keeps out the idle "warsitter" who happens to be passing by, but that person isn't trying to crack your system anyway.

It seems to me the benefits of open access far outweigh the costs, at least until ubiquitous municipal wifi becomes a reality.

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Perhaps they're just public-spirited and like sharing bandwidth that they aren't using themselves? Otherwise it would just go to waste...

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Yes, they could be civic-minded, but my money is on "just don't know any better." This isn't the sort of street where you'd think there'd be a lot of WiFi sharing (not that the neighbors are self-centered and greedy, far from it, but it's all single-family and two-family homes that, for the city at any rate, are fairly far apart, and it's not like we do civic-minded stuff like having block parties). Plus, the networks all have names like Linksys and Netgear - except for whoever'd turned on the wrong mode and was exposing his or her PC directly to this small world (that one was something like HP PC).

But Adam is absolutely right about the relatively trivial breakability of WEP.

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I have about 8 or 9 come up for me at any given time. I can get onto 5 without a password. Today I went into my config software to change a configuration on my network, and I found that I could configure the network settings on one of the open networks. Like, I could change the password and lock the owner out, if I wanted. Are people dumb?

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