Unsecured Wireless Network Leads to Police SWAT Raid

If you do not properly secure your Wi-Fi network, could people misuse it? We have all heard of people “borrowing” their neighbors Wi-Fi to surf questionable sites and download illegal media and software, but could having an unsecured Wi-Fi access point lead to a SWAT team raiding your house in full combat gear? The answer is (in one case at least) yes!

I have been doing some research for an upcoming Hakin9 article on Wireless security & attacks and ran into this article on Government Computer News, “Don’t get raided by a SWAT team; secure your wireless hub“. Apparently Evansville, Indiana resident Stephanie Milan (18) and her boyfriend’s unsecured wireless network was used by an unknown suspect to post threatening messages on Topix.com.

But what would cause a fully armed SWAT team to smash out a window, break down the front door, toss in stun grenades and rush the young couples abode while wielding automatic weapons? Maybe it was the subject of the messages. Apparently, along with scarfing free internet access, the subject posted messages threatening police officers and their families.

Not a smart move by the subject.

But was the response too much? “I think it was a show of force that they are not going to tolerate this,” said Ira Milan, Stephanie’s grandfather and long term owner of the property. “To bring a whole SWAT team seems a little excessive.”

City Police Chief Billy Bolin explained, “We have no way of being able to tell that,” and the concerning Internet posts “definitely come back to that address.”. Also the city Mayor said that after reviewing the situation, the use of force was justified.

The suspect is still at large.

After realizing that Stephanie and her boyfriend were not involved, the city has agreed to pay for the damages done. But this goes to show that leaving wireless networks unsecured could lead to some serious problems.

Recent research for the area that I live in shows that almost half of the wireless access points detected were using no, or woefully inadequate security. The results, even after years of security warnings to users and attempts to get manufacturers to use more secure settings as default, were a bit concerning:

13% used no security at all, and another 29% used WEP which has been cracked a long time ago. Only 46% used WPA2 which is the recommended security setting for your wireless network. Almost half of the Wi-Fi networks were vulnerable to attack or mis-use.

So be sure to set your Wi-Fi network to WPA2. And if it does not support WPA2, it is time to get a new Access Point. Also, remember to use a long complex password when securing your AP, as WPA and WPA2 passwords can still be cracked if you use a simple password.

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