Bruce wrote an article on Wired about running an open access point, also replicated with commentary on his blog, which has generated a bunch of positive and negative commentary around the blogosphere. I don’t run an open WAP myself, because somebody in my neighborhood plays high-bandwidth video games and I had to keep cutting them off before I locked down the WAP, but for the most part I agree with Bruce.
The negative commentary boils down to a few sets of people:
- Most people can’t secure their home machines adequately, running a closed wireless network with a firewall adds some security.
- Some people don’t like to share.
- Your ISP may not allow you to share your connection.
- There is a risk that someone else will jump on your wireless network and do bad things.
The first group has something of a valid point; defense in depth is usually a good idea. However, if you can’t secure your home machine adequately, having a closed network and a firewall in the long run is just postponing the inevitable. Sure, there are some security benefits to keeping the network closed… but they are relatively minor, so if you’re of a mind to share your connection, I don’t see this being a major selling point for keeping your network closed.
The second group is well within their rights and all power to ’em.
The third group of commentators needs to study contract law, and their DSL contract. This sort of restriction on terms and conditions is not a problem for me; I pay DSLExtreme for my connectivity and their Terms and Conditions doesn’t blather on about sharing my connection (which, coincidentally, is one reason I chose them). But lets say, for the sake of argument, that my ISP’s Terms and Conditions place a condition on use, where I’m not supposed to share my DSL (some people have compared this to sharing cable TV). That’s all fine and dandy; this prevents me from calling up all my neighbors and telling them I have a wireless network and gee why don’t they just jump on it? However, unless your ISP forbids you to hook up a wireless router to your DSL line (and I can’t imagine any that would in this day and age; nobody would sign up for their service), they can’t complain if you run an open access point. I don’t know of an ISP that attempts to dictate wireless access point configurations in their contract. Running an open access point in and of itself does not violate your terms of service (and trust me, this cannot even remotely be regarded as “stealing from the ISP”).
The last group of people also has a valid point, but I regard this as a pretty minor risk. One of the reasons I regard this as a pretty minor risk is that I’m not terribly worried about cops searching my house. I don’t do drugs. I don’t have any illegal firearms. The only files on my home computer are backups of my wife’s photos, my collection of IS research articles (which are copyrighted, but I have legitimate access), and my own personal MP3 collection, which I ripped from my own CDs. If police officers showed up at my door with a search warrant, they’re not going to find anything that is going to make it look like I run a kiddie porn site or do anything else illegal. Sure, it’s theoretically possible that an overzealous and unscrupulous District Attorney could trump up a case against me and I could have a long, drawn out legal battle to prove my innocence, but this is a pretty unlikely scenario. And really, if you’re worried about this sort of thing, you ought not to have an Internet connection in the first place.