The UK Communication Act 2003 (link to relevant part) says that its an offence to obtain a connection if it has been done with the intention of avoiding paying the relevant charges. In simple terms, it is illegal to use some one else's connection without their prior consent.
So the next time you try to connect to the internet using someone else's wireless connection, think twice! Also, if you have recently acquired a new wireless connection and are using it as received, here are a couple of things you need to check:
- Your Internet Supplier (ISP) supplied you with a wireless router (that little device with a little antenna and flashing lights), were you able to connect to it without being asked for a password? In that case, your connection may be "open". The first thing you should do is set up encryption and a password. See the bottom of this article for some links to help you do this.
- Your ISP did not supply you with a wireless router. You bought one yourself and you are prompted for a password the first time you connect to it? In this case, you are protected - but there's still a possible problem. Chances are that you are using your wireless routers "default" password. Try googling for "wireless default password" and you will realize how simple it is for someone to find it out ;-)
And yes, I don't think asking your ISP for help with setting this up will help. Most ISPs that I know don't support wireless routers that they have not provided. I would start with your routers manual. They are supposed to be in plain English and easy to use. In case you don't have a manual (e.g. second hand users) then google can help you find a online version. Start by searching your routers make and model number. The manual should usually be in the first few results.
- Default Router Admin passwords. Most modern routers will come equipped with a web-based configuration mode. In simple terms, they let you modify their settings with a web-page like interface using your web browser (see example). This interface usually prompt you for a login name and a password. You need to change this password at the first opportunity possible. It is quite simple to find default passwords for popular wireless router models using search engines like Google. Needless to say, once someone can get into your routers configuration settings one can use it for a variety of unscrupulous purposes. Refer to your routers manual on where and how to change it.
Now for some useful links:
- BBC: Wi-fi Explained.
- BBC: Your Wi-Fi questions answered.
- Top 10 tips for Wireless Home network Security.
- Microsoft: Improve the security of your wireless home network.
And finally, if you found the above useful or have some useful tips to share with me. Please leave a comment with the relevant details or links.