Should You Open Your Wireless Network?

Everyone loves free internet these days.  Airports offer it, coffee shops offer it, even some entire parks or cities offer it.  If you have wireless internet of your own, why not use it as a lure for those garage salers with wireless devices?  Opening up your secure network, however, can be dangerous for your files and computer, so it's best do know the risks ahead of time and take precautions.

Laptop on a open wifi networkBlogger Bruce Schneier recently wrote about the reasons he runs an open wireless network.  In his post, he also covered all of the risks of doing so (and rebutted them).  The biggest reason many people do not run open wireless networks in general is the risks of illegal activity occurring on their network, which, if it led to legal action, would include them in the time-consuming, expensive process, not the user who just plugged in for free.  It's also dangerous because without the proper precautions, people can access your computer and files.  Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, may be irritated if you're constantly running an open network and sharing your bandwidth with customers who haven't paid -- but for just one weekend, it's not really a big deal.

Okay, so you've decided it's a go on the open network.  You should probably make up a sign to put on your lawn or house mentioning the network, to draw people in.  Then you need to remove the password from your network, which can be done in the Network Connections (or similar control area) of your computer.  You may have to walk through some of the installation or configuration steps again, but it shouldn't take much to get rid of that security option.

And you're done!  Now, you're probably thinking, how am I going to keep myself safe with an open network?  The easiest and most obvious answer is to use a free internet filtering program, like K9 Web Protection, and block some specific sites you don't want your customers to be accessing (perhaps torrent and other file-sharing sites, pornography sites, and other illegal or offensive content you could be held liable for).  K9 Web Protection allows you to block entire categories, making it easy for you to eliminate threats in one fell swoop.  You should also make your computer invisible on the network, preventing customers from accessing your files.

If you're leery of opening the network entirely, you can always set a new, simple password and require users to sign a release form, saying they will not conduct illegal activity, sue you for harm to their devices, or squirm out of the blame if something does go wrong and it's their fault.  People may grumble about this, but the chance to snag some free bandwidth may be worth a signature.  Once they've signed, you can give them the password and they can browse to their heart's content.  Just don't forget to change the password back once you close up shop!

You may find that customers hover too long, standing around to use your wireless network.  If that's the case, you can either politely ask them to leave, or use it as a sales opportunity: approach them with a question of "can I help you find anything?" or "is there anything you're interested in?" once in a while.  If it gets to be too much, you can just shut off your router and let them discover that their connectivity no longer works. 

Speaking of internet resources, have you checked out GarageSaleCow.com lately?  With tons of listings across the country and a plethora of free resources, it's the nation's largest garage sale Web site!

Sources:

http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2008/01/securitymatters_0110

http://www1.k9webprotection.com




Comments (7) -

Dee
Dee
10/5/2012 1:17:03 AM #

The majority of computer networks direct messages from base to destination devices applying any of three methods called routing, switching and bridging. Routers use particular network target information presented within messages to send them forward to their destination. Switches use most of the similar technology as routers but usually support local area networks only. Bridging enables messages to flow between two different kinds of physical networks.

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Marco Bently
Marco Bently
2/21/2013 11:25:42 AM #

opening your wireless network during a garage sale could attract more costumers but divert their attention from the sale into surfing the net. It could end without having much sales while your costumers were enjoying surfing the internet the whole time around. Your sale could feel like an internet cafe and definitely defeat your purpose in earning money and get rid of old stuff.

Preston Gamble
Preston Gamble
2/21/2013 11:31:27 AM #

Its really a big risk to open your network to people you don't trust and know that much. They could ruin and files and transmit viruses which could destroy your network permanently. Installing a software to prevent them from accessing untrusted sites like porn sites, blogs which could have malwares, viruses, etc...

Cesar Waller
Cesar Waller
2/21/2013 11:38:15 AM #

You don't necessarily need to delete your password. You could let them pay for special access on your Wi-fi for the duration of the garage sale. You can make into an income generating business to earn extra money.

Ricky Holman
Ricky Holman
2/21/2013 11:44:36 AM #

K9 protection is a great software to start with. I encountered that software when I was still studying for my degree. We were in our computer lab and whenever we tried to access social networking sites, like facebook, it immediately blocks the site and shows a warning message that you are not allowed to visit that particular site because of the risks attached to visiting such sites.

Horace Burg
Horace Burg
2/21/2013 11:53:18 AM #

Signing a form which frees you from the responsibility if something happens wrong while the users are surfing through your Wi-fi. It would assure the safety of both parties and send a message that you can surf at your own risk. It would also discourage them from abusing your network and using it for illegal purposes.

Cameron Dotson
Cameron Dotson
2/21/2013 12:01:43 PM #

You need to take precautions and weigh the risks and benefits of opening your network. But personally, I don't agree in opening your network because it's a garage sale for god's sake. If you want to surf the internet then go an internet shop instead. Don't waste your time and someone else's time and ruining their garage sale by just attending and using the free wi-fi.

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