There is a term known to the techie world called "Wardriving". You get in your car with a laptop, equiped with some special network scanning software and you drive around neighborhoods searching for "open" home wireless networks. Once you find one you could connect to the network and surf the internet for free, hack another pc on the internet or wreak havoc on the persons pc who owns the wireless network. You see, new wireless routers such as those sold in Best Buy, Circuit City or even Wal-Mart come out of the box, wide open with security turned off! Most non-techies do not know this. They get their new shiny Linksys home wireless router, come home, hook it up and assume thats all there is too it. Wrong.
To prove my point of how common this is, listen to what I did recently. I was sitting on my couch about to watch some Monday Night Football and I decided to get out my laptop. Its handy to surf the net, check stats and stuff while the game is on. My laptop was taking its time finding my own wireless network, so I had it do a Site Search again to find my connection. I quickly found it and began to authenticate thru the WEP security I have setup. All of a sudden, my software detects 3 other wireless networks nearby. They have to be within 100 feet or so to my location or I wouldnt be picking up their signal. Most of them are fairly weak signals, ranging from 5% to 15% strength. Two of them are named "Default", which means they are still on their default settings right out of the box! And one of them has its name changed to "UcMe". So clever, yet it was still unsecured and open for any public connections! So I thought, I wonder just how many are turned on, unprotected in my apartment complex? I threw on some shoes, unplugged my laptop and decided to take a little walk. I went down the stairs and started walking along the row of apartment buildlings. All of a sudden I now have 8 wireless networks showing up and NONE of them are secured! Incredible... just amazing what these people dont know. I selected the wireless network with the strongest signal and clicked "connect". My wireless network card lights flickered and the software on my screen showed it was working on making a connection. Bingo! I connected to this unknown persons wireless network. If I was up to no-good, I could have begun a very destructive hacking lesson. But I walked on to see how long I could hold the signal. About 15 feet later, it dropped and I lost it. As my friend Craig put it, "Would this be Warwalking"? :) I began to get a bit cold from walking around in a t-shirt and shorts so I headed back to watch my game, happy to know I had proved a point to myself. A secure wireless network pays off!!