Whose network?

Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 15:13 | Posted in computer, internet, wifi | 2 Comments

I booted my laptop in Windows partition a moment ago. I am at home and to my knowledge there is no WLAN access here. The laptop was accordingly wired to my LAN router.

Imagine my surprise as a message appeared on screen that a WLAN network had been detected. It was unprotected and configured for open access. I was asked if I wanted to connect with the usual warning that any information sent over that network could be seen by others.

Since I was also alerted at the same time that my virus protection needed an update, I declined to connect. When the update was all clear, I needed to reboot the computer. During the boot I disconnected the laptop from my router and waited for the message to appear again to test the connection. Unfortunately it did not appear and a scan for wireless access confirmed that none was around.

Now I wonder whose network it was. And more importantly, how it was accessible from my flat, albeit momentarily. I know that radio waves sometimes act in an unexpected way and reach locations they are not supposed to. I used to be a DXer as a kid so my knowledge of radio waves is much higher than average.

Was it one of my neighbours? But why would they leave their network unprotected? That may of course be because of ignorance. I do not know if the network was configured for open access on purpose or by accident.

I have been considering to buy a wifi box and connect it to my LAN router so I could use my laptop in more convenient places than at my desk, such as the balcony or in bed. But now I just do not know if it is safe enough. While there really is no such thing as secrets and privacy in the Internet, one would still want to take some steps to keep one’s web usage private.



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  1. You can use your own wlan-system without needing to guess about other people. Just activate the offered key-encryption. You would have to enter the same key in your router and in your laptop. Once connected you can switch your network to unvisible. And furthermore you can deny automatic connecting other devices. With this three steps your wlan will be saver enough.
    But don’t forget: cable connection is always faster.

    If you see the other wlan-network again don’t hesitate to connect. In most cases the owner of this network will not even see you being connected and without special knowledge he will not be able to search your computer or harddisk.

    Maybe it would be a good idea to find out who it is and share the network with him. Here it is very common to ask the neighbours if they want to participate. Normaly you won’t even feel that there is somebody else in your network, but you can split the costs of your ISP.

  2. Thanks, Peter! I thought of the key-encryption but I was not sure. I am a newby in the wireless business. 🙂

    I’ll keep an eye on that network. Luckily I made a note about it so I will recognize it if it shows up. However, I do not think it is likely since the thick walls here are reinforced concrete. It must have been one of those occasions when radio waves act unexpectedly.

    I am sure going to use the laptop primarily in cable connection. And I am not going to hurry with getting wireless at home. It is something I may or may not do. Depends on how uncomfortable I am going to feel at my desk. But hey, I have already been sitting here long hours for years. 😉

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