WiFi sting arrests man

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A man from North Rockhampton, QLD has been arrested for tapping into wireless internet connections to e-mail threats anonymously appeared in court yesterday after a police sting.

A 22-year-old man was charged with demanding property by threat and using a carriage service to threaten serious harm. The police suspect that the man has been sending threats to individuals and organizations since August.

He is alleged to have used public wifi hotspots to send the threats with a handheld device around Rockhampton, making tracing difficult.

But on December 3, the police got hold of an e-mail demanding a sum of money to be “dropped off” at a local park. The man was arrested by undercover cops.

It is also understood that the man has used various legitimate e-mails, including the Sydney-based editor of APC Tony Sarno. Sarno said to Australian IT that he was shocked that his e-mails were used to send threats. “I’ve got to congratulate the police, because they came up against technical roadblocks,” he said. “This is potentially a very dangerous development – wireless technology essentially makes it possible for someone to be completely untraceable.”

The Director of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre, James McCormack has said that the current trend is that home broadband connections are easily at risk of of ‘piggybacking’. “We strongly recommend people enable connection encryption, because that significantly reduces the risk of unauthorised access.”

He said that it was easy by ticking a box in set-up mode.

“Look for WPA, which is WiFi Protected Access, the best form of encryption for this type of arrangement,” he said. “If you don’t have WPA, go for WEP; it’s an older form of encryption but still quite secure. Then enter a short pass-phrase to cover all the computers on your network.”

Bill Caelli, professor emeritus at the Queensland University of Technology’s Information Security Institute, has said that home and business users tend not to secure it as it is nearly impossible for them to know what to do.

“I don’t care what the manufacturers say, it is not simple,” he said to Australian IT. “It’s up to the industry to provide safe and secure products. If industry doesn’t come to the party, then it’s up to the Government to ensure they do.”

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