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Schneier on Security by Bruce Schneier

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Chapter 10. Business of Security

My Open Wireless Network

Originally published in Wired, 10 January 2008

Whenever I talk or write about my own security setup, the one thing that surprises people—and attracts the most criticism—is the fact that I run an open wireless network at home. There's no password. There's no encryption. Anyone with wireless capability who can see my network can use it to access the Internet.

To me, it's basic politeness. Providing Internet access to guests is kind of like providing heat and electricity, or a hot cup of tea. But to some observers, it's both wrong and dangerous.

I'm told that uninvited strangers may sit in their cars in front of my house, and use my network to send spam, eavesdrop on my passwords, and upload and download everything from pirated movies to child pornography. As a result, I risk all sorts of bad things happening to me, from seeing my IP address blacklisted to having the police crash through my door.

While this is technically true, I don't think it's much of a risk. I can count five open wireless networks in coffee shops within a mile of my house, and any potential spammer is far more likely to sit in a warm room with a cup of coffee and a scone than in a cold car outside my house. And yes, if someone did commit a crime using my network the police might visit, but what better defense is there than the fact that I have an open wireless network? If I enabled wireless security on my network and someone hacked it, I would have a far harder ...

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