Bruce Schneier (a leading US computer security expert) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFY) advise leaving your wi-fi network open: meaning, not use encryption protocols such as WEP or WPA2. This allows neighbours and passers-by to use it while in urgent need, and increases societal cooperation. EFY states:
“If you sometimes find yourself needing an open wireless network in order to check your email from a car, a street corner, or a park, you may have noticed that they’re getting harder to find.”
Due to privacy concerns, and also to avoid letting terrorists and anti-national elements use the spectrum – people are closing down their wi-fi networks. This is also the official advice from my ISP.
EFY argues however, that allowing access to others is just another way of giving back to the society. In addition they argue that this allows more efficient use of spectrum compared to cell phone towers. It admits, however, that current protocols are not designed for efficient sharing. The ideal protocol, as per EFY, would allow sharing part of your bandwidth – while leaving the rest encrypted and closed for snooping. They are working on building such a protocol.
I would love to leave my network open – I do not use all my bandwidth, and in fact do not use it at all for several hours a day. I have an unlimited plan – so it would not be a financial burden. It would instead shift the burden to the ISPs, which I believe is fair – they have restricted trade practices too.
Given the current state of terrorism in India – however – I do not feel safe in doing so. America has understood terrorism only a decade ago – we have felt it for last several decades. We know that an open wi-fi was used to claim Mumbai attacks of 26/11. I am also not sure of the legal protection in India, if any. The government machinery works in an ad hoc basis – even though we may claim to be the world’s largest democracy.
Please post thoughts / comments.