An open Wifi system is one in which there is no encryption between the wireless router and all of the computers and devices that are connected to it. Since there’s no encryption, there’s no password and anyone can connect,
Proponents of open wifi system say that it’s the neighborly thing to do. Sharing your internet connection with others who need it is an altruistic way of giving back to the world. There’s also the belief that by openly sharing your connection, you’ll have more privacy as there won’t be any reason for people to try to break into your network.
Our thoughts on open WiFi: uhhhh, no. Bad idea. Like many other things in life, running an open WiFi network seems like a good idea until you’re faced with the grim reality of human behavior and then it doesn’t look as good. Here are the main objections:
- Bandwidth If you share your connection with others, you’ll have less bandwidth and therefore a slower connection. Even if you use a system to control how much bandwidth is allocated per user, you’ll still run into this issue. Also, if your ISP limits you to downloading a certain amount of data per month, this quota could be eaten up by others.
- Behavior It’s your connection, so anything bad or unsavory that happens on your network is traceable back to you. That means that things like illegal file sharing or downloading child pornography will cause the authorities to be knocking on your door. Even if you’re completely innocent, you’ll have a hard time fighting through the judges and courts that aren’t technologically sophisticated enough to understand the full situation.
- ISP When you share your internet connection with your neighbor, your ISP loses a potential customer, something that they don’t like. To combat this, most ISPs will forbid you from doing this in the Terms and Conditions for their service. If you choose to run an open wifi system, check with your ISP to see whether they allow it.
In Germany, the country’s top criminal court ruled that Internet users must secure their wireless connections to prevent others from illegally downloading data. The court said Internet users could be fined up to $126 if a third party takes advantage of their unprotected line, though it stopped short of holding the users responsible for illegal content downloaded by the third party.
The ruling came after a musician sued an Internet user whose wireless connection was used to download a song, which was then offered on an online file sharing network. The user was on vacation when the song was downloaded.
To read some examples of where running an open WiFi system got people in trouble, look here.