Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wrong To Charge 17 Year Old Teen Over Wireless Tapping

I’ve read in a report in Straits Times earlier that a man had decided to press charges on Garyl Tan Jia Luo over a wireless tapping incident. I’m a wireless internet user myself and I am saying this is a harsh decision that would send the wrong signals to the Internet community with our Wireless SG initiatives starting by 1st Jan 2007.

As far as I know, there are a few methods that could have prevented this incident. The owner could have done any of the following steps to prevent his wireless network from being accessed but he failed to do so.
  • 1) Secure his wireless network by adding a WPA or WEP encryption
  • 2) Adding MAC address so that only PCs/Laptops with the designated address can assess
  • 3) Not publishing the Name of his wireless network

All wireless router vendors have detail user guides to easily configure the first two commonly used steps. An average user could have easily configured the necessary settings to prevent any unwelcome visits to his wireless networks but the owner had failed to do so. If he had not known the steps he could have contacted his vendor for more details.

Let me give you an analogy. ‘Imagine you are returning home one day and you see your neighbour’s door wide open, what would you do? If it were me, I would likely go into my neighbour’s house to see what happened.’ Just out of curiosity but it does not mean I have ill intentions.

Similarly it is unlikely a malicious attempt for Garyl to access the owners network. Anybody who frequent hotspots will know they need to search for wireless networks like SkynetGlobal if they’re looking at connecting to the free internet access at McDonalds.Let me give you real scenario that happens all the time.

Let’s say I’m a new linksys wireless router user and without configuration it will be named ‘linksys’. There are a lot of non IT savvy guys staying near me. I log on to my computer but I forgot to turn on my router. My computer is automatically configured to hunt for my primary network ‘linksys’. Later, an amateur user who did not configure his network comes online. I access to his ‘linksys’ network unintentionally and unknowingly. Does it mean I’m liable to be prosecuted?

Let us understand the fact that Garyl is still a young kid and we are talking about a home network here. We are not talking about hacking into a corporate server that has tons of classified information. By sharing the same wireless network as the owner, it is highly unlikely that Garyl would have been able to access any classified information.

He could only have access to shared folders; that is unless the owner decides to share his folders. Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill. “If Garyl should be prosecuted for his actions, then the owner should also be prosecuted for his actions in attracting other internet users and causing them to be prosecuted.”

I hope the MP serving the constituents of Casuarina Walk would look into the matter and assist Garyl to make sure we do not condemn this kid’s future before it even started.

Edmund Ng


Edmund Ng,
CEO, President
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