Security experts warn of dangers of unprotected Wi-Fi hotspots - KCTV5

Security experts warn of dangers of unprotected Wi-Fi hotspots

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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

Finding a Wi-Fi signal is easy. Most devices pop them up in an instant and are password protected. But if the signal is not, anyone can easily be mistaken for shielding a criminal.

Computer experts say when police trace illegal downloading, the address they get isn't for the computer the criminal is using, but the network, and there lies the danger.

"The police are going to identify the IP address, the source IP address that they saw doing the illicit activity, and that's going to be our IP address, so they are going to come to our door," computer security specialist Jake Reynolds said.

That is why police seized four computers from a Catholic parish office in Independence Tuesday after determining child pornography had been downloaded on the church's unsecured Wi-Fi address. 

If the seized computers come up clean, there is no telling whose device was using their signal.

"An open wireless network is what you'd call 'low hanging fruit' to a pervert who wants to download child pornography anonymously. If you set even the weakest key, say a password of password1, that's at least some barrier of entry that person is going to have to sit there and guess on. He's probably going to move to the next house which will be an open one or the next 10 houses. It's easy to find them," Reynolds said.

Police say people trading child pornography have been trolling for open networks to disguise their identities for years now. With an antenna-like device, they can get a signal far from one's front door.

"We can pick those up from the skyscrapers downtown all the way a mile away with that card," Reynolds said.

With new routers making setup easier, Reynolds said there is little reason not to lock your account.

It may be inconvenient, having to log on all the time, but Reynolds said it is a lot less inconvenient than having an AR15 shoved in one's face and having their computers taken.

One might also wonder about coffee shops and such with unlocked Wi-Fi. Reynolds said most of those are set up so people can't even access questionable accounts on those networks.

Another key is to use a strong network and password. Expects said not to use a child's name or a string of numbers, but numbers and both capital and lowercase letters.

If the setup wizard gives you options on the type of network, computer experts say a WPA2 is a good one to use.

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