Posted by: Olga Kharif on April 25, 2006
On April 20, Westchester County in New York approved a law that will slap local business owners with a warning or a fine for not securing their Wi-Fi networks. The legislation takes effect in 180 days.
Apparently, to prove just how vulnerable Wi-Fi networks are, a team from the local department of information technology drove around downtown White Plains. In half an hour, they discovered 248 hot spots. Of those, 120 lacked any security.
Soon, the county will be able to issue warnings to business owners whose networks aren’t secure. Owners who don’t comply within 30 days will be slapped with a $250 fine. Further violations will result in a $500 fine. That’s not much; still, small businesses will feel it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if similar measures spring up around the country: After all, identity theft is a growing concern. There have been plenty of cases where criminals used Wi-Fi networks to steal customer information. And yet, about 60% of Wi-Fi networks remain unsecured.
What I’d like to know is, how the county plans to enforce this law. Right now, it has two investigators focused, full time, on cybercrime. I wonder if, perhaps, counties could put wardrivers to good use. Wardrivers are geek enthusiasts who drive around locating Wi-Fi access points and trying to get information from them. Legality of wardriving is not clear. But perhaps wardrivers could get a percentage of the $500 reward for detecting Wi-Fi law offenders? They would functions as headhunters of the wireless world. I think that would fix the Wi-Fi security problem. What do you think?