WASHINGTON -- You've got a wireless network. You can use your computer anywhere in your house. But your neighbors may be benefiting too. If your network is not secured, they can "borrow" Internet access from you--no need to pay for their own. No harm, no foul, right?
Not exactly, say Symantec and the Internet Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization.
Symantec and the IEF have joined forces to help educate people about the risks of leaving their wireless devices unsecured. Hackers searching for financial information, business records, or sensitive e-mail can enter into your open network as easily as if you left your personal and business files at the curbside, they say. They have created a new public awareness campaign to educate people about these dangers, and to provide tips on how you can protect your personal files from hackers.
The Wireless Security Initiative is aimed at the 56 million Americans who use wireless technology. The WSI site offers tips for encrypting networks and provides step-by-step flash video tutorials, says Tim Lordan, executive director of the Internet Education Foundation.
"Wireless technology is becoming a fabric of our daily lives," Lordan says. "We want to be on the forefront of making sure that everyone's wireless devices, whether it be a smart phone, PDA or laptop, are protected and secure."
Symantec Vice President Sarah Hicks says the company recently found that nearly 50 percent of wireless users in Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago "leave their doors wide open." Researchers drove through neighborhoods with a wireless-enabled laptop and discovered thousands of unsecured networks.
Hicks said the problem is not confined to notebooks: 60 percent of consumers keep confidential business or client data on handheld devices.
Representative Mike Honda (D-Calif.) lauds the new initiative and says it will bring an increased sense of security to consumers.
"We need to ensure that consumers feel comfortable with the security of their wireless connections before we can expect to see the sort of saturation of wireless technologies and mobile productivity that is commonplace in Asia. Our counterparts overseas are surging ahead," Honda says.