How do I secure my WiFi Network?

Child pornography is a very unpleasant topic. But even more unpleasant is facing criminal charges for possession of child pornography.

Certainly the abuse of children is something that should never be tolerated. But in the effort to end child pornography (which will never be truly be ended so long as there are humans on the planet), both the state and federal governments have established extremely punitive regimes under which child pornography is punished. Possession of more than 600 images can, under the federal sentencing guidelines, yield decades in prison. In addition, a person convicted of child pornography will be registered as a sex offender, which will make life after prison difficult indeed.

The Internet is a great advance in human interaction and development. But it is very insecure. And, increasingly, the average person – the average consumer – has the ability to establish nodes on the internet through the use of cheap wireless routers.

If you own a wireless router and you have not properly secured the router, you have potentially made your own network vulnerable to hackers, people who wish to do you harm, or even people who possess or distribute child pornography and want to use an innocent person’s network and want to establish that network as a way to protect them from their crimes.

The standard wireless router has two forms of encryption – WEP & WPA. You can think of encryption as the key by which someone gets access to the network. Once the person has gained access to an encrypted wireless network, they can make it appear as if they are you – the person who has the account with Time Warner or Embarq or AT&T.

WEP is by far the weaker encryption technique. It was hacked years ago, and tools that allow relatively unskilled hackers to get access to a WEP network are readily available on the internet. It takes virtually no time and virtually no skill to hack a WEP-encrypted network. So if you’re using WEP, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to attack.

Now, most people will never have their networks hacked, just as most people who leave their car doors unlocked will never have their cars stolen.

Here’s a video showing how easy it is to hack WEP in about 8 minutes:

That video is scary. Scary for this guy’s neighbor whose WiFi network has been compromised without the neighbor knowing. If this guy wanted to, at this point, download child pornography (or commit any other internet-related crime), he could do so using the neighbor’s WiFi network.

That means, at the end of the day, if police were monitoring child pornography peer-to-peer networks online, they would be led back to the neighbor’s IP address and the neighbor’s home.

If this kid in the video had a little more skill, he could even use other tools to hack into the neighbor’s computers and load Peer-to-Peer file sharing with which to distribute child pornography. The illicit material would therefore reside on the neighbor’s computers. Who do you think would be facing criminal charges? Probably the innocent neighbor.

Back before I became a Raleigh criminal lawyer, I was a network administrator for a non-profit organization in Arlington, Virginia. In one weekend, our network was brought to its knees because of a successful exploit by a group of Russian hackers. What took them an hour, took me and other experts I hired 48 hours to repair and fix.

Most criminal lawyers do not understand the complexity of networks, nor do they understand the possible defenses if you’ve been accused of possessing child pornography.

Hire a NC lawyer who does.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.