How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: Do You Run an Open Wi-Fi Network?

Note: This article is part of our archive and is likely out of date.
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Last week the Electronic Frontier Foundation sent out a call to action encouraging people to join the Open Wireless Movement. Do you agree with their stance or is Wi-Fi sharing risky business?

Photo by Emei.

While at first glance the question seems pretty binary: “Yes, I do run an open Wi-Fi network” or “No, I don’t run an open Wi-Fi network”, it’s significantly more complicated when you factor in your motivations. The EFF call to action (which you can read in its entirety here) highlights some of the thing that scare people away from sharing their Wi-Fi: fear of litigation if someone does something illegal on their connection, fear of losing their service if their ISP finds out, desire to stop people from free riding on your connection (and hogging your bandwidth in the process), and concerns over privacy and the integrity of personal data on the network.

None the less many people still run open Wi-Fi networks in order to share the wealth—although lots of people use their router software to limit how much bandwidth other users can suck up.

We’re curious how you deal with this situation? Do you lock your Wi-Fi down completely? Do you leave it wide open? Do you use the router to limit access but provide a small section of bandwidth for the travel-weary and data-hungry pedestrians that pass by? If you do lock down your network would you be enticed to run it open (or partially open) if you knew that the RIAA wouldn’t send a team of ninjas to kill your dog if your neighbor’s kid downloaded the latest top 40 albums?

Sound off in the comments with your stance on the matter and, more importantly, your technological work-arounds if you’ve decided to join the Open Wi-Fi movement. Make sure to check back in on Friday to see our What You Said roundup of your tips, tricks, and opinions.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/4/11

Comments (178)

  1. Khai

    I point to the recent cases of police operations busting the owners of unsecured networks for downloading child porn, when in fact it was others using their networks.

    *example links removed due to over reacting spammer detection*

    I would think very carefully about leaving a network open due to this kind of abuse.

  2. bkj216

    My network is WPA2 Locked DOWN. But I do find the EFF’s backing this idea interesting

  3. jblackwood

    I’ll get right on this as soon as AT&T removes my 150 gig cap.

  4. nt0xik8ed

    if i have to pay for service i’m not giving it out for free. no wifi-welfare here, go mooch off someone else or pay me. i’m locked down and hidden.

  5. John

    I live in the middle of nowhere (my neighbors are literally Amish) so I run an unsecured WiFi with a wireless bridge to my parents house about 300 ft away. If I lived in a more populated area I would definitely keep it locked down. The company I work for is located in a small town and we have a WiFi bridge and multiple access points. We use WPA2 on both of these setups.

  6. chris

    I keep mine locked down; however. If I lived in an apartment building with people I trusted and knew. I would secure it and allow those people I trust to use it and maybe we could all band together to keep cost down. For instance the bill comes to 100 for one user. If you split that four ways it becomes much more affordable.

  7. Mike

    I run mine secured but since I live in a very small, rural town in Vermont I will offer it to neighbors and house mates (we rent) that my wife and I trust. If it seems they are totally sucking up bandwith, I would ask them to chip in or shove off.

  8. BoxunloX

    Probably the only thing that disturbs me more than running an open WiFi network is storing all of my personal data in the cloud. I run WPA2, disable SSID broadcasting, and use MAC filtering on the router. I also run software IDSs on all my systems in case someone wanted to try MAC spoofing one of them.

  9. ElegantFowl

    We provide an unsecured Courtesy network (open to Internet, not to local network) using that feature of the Netgear WNR2000. If I thought it was being misused I might throttle it a bit, but it’s not.

    IEEE missed the boat on this and should have built courtesy networks into the WLAN standard. EFF is right to take it on. This tiny slice of garbage spectrum that the public is allowed to use for ‘unlicensed’ devices could provide more capacity and value than all other paid/broadcast services combined. We need to stop auctioning off spectrum to corporations who want to rent capacity back to us at monopoly prices. Open user-capitalized wireless is the way, first with WLAN, then in the “white spaces”.

  10. Grant

    I am in the middle of nowhere also. I run mine open, but it is in the basement, so, there is very little spill over. I can’t get a signal even in much of my own yard, but friends who come over can easily connect, as long as they are in the house.

  11. ElegantFowl

    If you secure your own network, does that mean you never use your mobile computers on untrusted networks? It’s much better to secure your computer (with a firewall, SSL connections, and encrypted content where appropriate) and just assume that networks are untrustworthy.

  12. A new HTG fan

    I do have a WEP (no WPA cause some mobile devices do not support it, which is a pity) key on my network, for two reasons.

    First of all; in my country, one is only allowed to down- and/or upload a total amount of 100 GB of data which isn’t very much. It’s easy to reach the limit on my own, let alone with the whole neighborhood using my network.

    Second reason; security indeed. It’s easy enough for the average script-kiddie to sniff (and, if necessary, decode encrypted) data. I don’t feel like finding an empty bank account one day or another.

    Conclusion: no thanks, no open network for me.

  13. Grant

    One other little detail on mine: My wifi is on a separate subnet, and only has access to the internet, not any of the machines in the house. I treat all wifi traffic as if it were outside Internet traffic from a security point of view, so my real danger is moochers, but since you have to be in the house to get a signal, it is not so much of a worry.

  14. Seria

    I have to say although their thoughts are interesting, I am a firm supporter of locking down my Wifi (WPA2 style). I’m sorry but I pay for my internet access and I’m not about to have my door busted down by the feds because I thought my neighbor, family or friend was on the up and up and would never think to put my crediability on the line like that. I follow the old addage in this instance that one bad apple spoils the bunch and nowadays with people not caring how their actions affect people, I make sure no freeloader is piggy backing off my network

  15. Reese

    I would but I KNOW HOW PEOPLE ARE they would not use it just to do simple stuff like “brows the net” they would be downloading music, movies and anything they can get there hands on. Where I live they are to dumb to hack. But not to dumb to “PROB. know what torrents are. If the people around me could come up with an agreement to ONLY SURF ex facebook howtogeek etc instead of crazy downloads yea i would do it.

    Most people if they have a chance of doing illigal activity on there network or your network they would do it on yours.

    my question is if they are on your network and if you hack them would that be illigal or would it be on the same bases of defending your self from someone breaking and entering.?

    sorry for all the miss spells and etc.

  16. Dean

    ill echo jblackwood..

    I’ll get right on this as soon as CHARTER removes my 250 gig cap.

  17. Teddy P

    I run two wi-fi. One secure and one open. I use a captive portal for open wi-fi with a captive message requiring user acceptance. All networks are protected by a unified threat management security gateway, including: content filtering, anti-virus, phishing, IPS, etc…

  18. Andy

    Yes, my nearest neighbors are 1 mile away!

  19. Kevalin

    In the best of all possible worlds, we could all work on open wifi networks in the secure knowledge that everyone using the service was honest, clean, thrifty and generous.

    But this is Earth, so I use WPA encryption on my wifi network.

  20. Mike

    Mine is open and I’m too lazy to fix it.

  21. Two Replies

    Depends on how you define “open”.

    Do I keep my network locked down with WEP/WPA/etc passcodes? No. Entering the keys or hex-strings are a pain in the ass.

    Can just anyone get on? No, not unless they know one of my devices’ MAC addresses, and know how to spoof it on their device. (I filter by MAC, white-list)

  22. Clinton

    I have my SSID not broadcasting and other than that its fully open. you have to know the SSID… and if your good enough to find it, then you deserve to use my internet :)

  23. Lady Fitzgerald

    Mine is locked down (WPA2). I would happily allow guests to use it but there is no way I will let strangers freeload on the bandwidth I’m paying for, using it for God only knows what.

  24. waot

    I use a few hacks to keep them from doing anything with my homegroup. It also forbids torrents and other P2P stuff. I can alos monitor their surfing urls

  25. Atomsk

    Only when I wanna do some packet sniffing for idiots who connect on my wifi. :)

  26. NetworkFusion

    I run a bunch of free wifi hotspots for the general public (although mainly run in conjunction with local businesses), The network is semi locked down and uses software for an openwrt router, called WiFiDog in conjunction with a back end called Auth Puppy. I also use Open DNS for content filtering to cover my back…

  27. UniversalMonster

    My network is locked DOWN as I’m the only house in the area with a fibre connection, plus, I like sharing my files across Windows machines, and don’t 100% trust the Win7 Homegroup Security.

    I am into Open wifi sharing though; so have installed a separate FON Wifi Access Point, but users have to pay to use it (and I get a little cut…). But having one installed, gives me the freedom to use other people’s FON AP’s for free worldwide. Well worth looking into!

  28. Mystik

    WPA2 all the way! I know my neighbors, and, well, I could only just imagine the things they would be downloading. O.o

  29. InDiSent

    I’m completely locked down, but i have a guest wireless setup on a whole different sub-net…that’s locked down too.

  30. Aaron

    I would not do this because of the ability for people to obtain personal information.

  31. hericardo

    wep protection is enough, in order to claim that you are not responsible for exploits, should someone broke it down. Still having lighter cpu load.

  32. DEANi2

    All locked down, no freeloading or piggy backing off my paid for network.

  33. Samuel Coxson

    After reading this and the attached article I would if it weren’t for the fact my network is massively slow as it is (I like live in a UK town suburb). Speeds are pretty terrible mostly because of BT who I hate with a passion they are just money grabbers who don’t serve their purpose of networking the UK. To top it all off they do run an open network service using the standard routers they distribute to customers. BUT they make people PAY THEM to USE my bandwidth which is overpriced as it is. Do they invest any of the money make they from this in improve the network no just goes to another one of their money making profit schemes. I run WPA2 on my network and hotspot shield on open networks to keep safe. I bet some of that custom firmware could probably make the second network on my router free access though.

  34. jeepmanjr

    I’m not apposed to sharing, I’m just apposed to abusing. Sorry, but you just can’t trust anyone these days. My network is 90% wired. I only run a locked-down wireless connection for our smart phones and my wife’s laptop – and I’m working on that. It’s the low-life criminals that make open sharing scarce. Would consider it though on a stand-alone. But definitely not on my household network by any means!! Word!!

  35. Kut Kutuztov

    I don’t block my wifi for one: neighbours are too far away to pick up on it anyway. I did before when my bandwidth was monitored and I was closer to my neighbours, but it’s not a big deal now.

  36. trinity343

    locked down with WPA2. i’ll never have mine open for neighbors to use. but i must say when i move into a new apartment and my internet isn’t turned on yet i do like the neighbors who don’t have theirs protected

  37. Dan

    I have a locked wifi network for all the reasons other commenters just said. Plus, I have set-up a Windows HomeGroup in my home network with all users having full read-write access to my PCs, no password necessary. So it makes good sense to keep it secure with WPA2.

    Also, I don’t want freeloaders to hog up my internet bandwidth since I run a torrent-box.

  38. Jon

    WPA2 with a 63-character random alpha-numeric key (I had to paste it into a TXT file). Good luck on anyone cracking into my wireless. On top of that, my wireless network name is “Carnal Knowledge” just for laughs.

  39. Ruaa

    Leave my WiFi open? R U NUTS!

  40. Urichhai

    Cocked and Locked. Here in Chicago there are so many wireless connections out there its nuts. but I agree, I pay for it so I use it. WPA2.

  41. Michael

    I run an unsecured wifi network so if I’m ever prosecuted for torrenting I can claim someone else was doing it over my network :)

  42. Anonymous Joe

    My WiFi is somewhere in between. I live in a condo with a few neighbors who have asked for periodic connection which I have granted. I use WEP partly because it’s crackable but also so that I can select who I share my connection with. And even with all that, I haven’t even come close to my Comcast limit of 250G/month.

    Now, if Google will just get off their butts, implement all that bandwidth they bought up to do some “good” (not evil) and force all the evil little ISP’s to lay off the bogus bandwidth limits not to mentions all that dark fiber that has yet to see the light of data… But I digress. All the same, Mr. Roberts (CEO of Comcast) EAT MY SHORTS!

  43. Santo

    Even if I get free Internet access, I will not leave my wi-fi network open.

  44. akbozo


  45. Mark

    It really depends on the situation. Where you live, what kind of community you are in, and other security consideration you might have.

    A unsecure network is very vulnerable to evesdropping, packet capturing and other known vulnerabilities known in the interweb.

    My router is LOCKED DOWN. SSID Boradcast is disabled, MAC access restriction is on, 14 complex password, WPA2, A router that goes through a switch and to my NIC.

  46. Bob

    At home – basic encryption, MAC control, Hidden SSID, OpenDNS filtering

    At an outdoor adventure centre I help out – Open, Hidden SSID (provided to adults on request and changed periodically), OpenDNS filtering

  47. durr

    Yes i do, with black- and whitelist filters in a vlan. There is allmost no chance to exploit and every user that uses my network agrees to my user terms, which means i can sniff their accounts and passwords and use them :)

  48. Gouthaman Karunakaran

    I’ve enabled WPA2-PSK on my home router. I don’t really mind sharing my connection with people, but it’s just that I’m on a 2Mpbs plan that gets converted into 256Kbps if 15GB is used up and it would really make me angry if anonymous users just hog up all the bandwidth.

    Although I’m skeptical this, I share the key with guests who come over to my place.

  49. cochise

    I have both….

    I have one WPA2 secure for my internet access and my network, and a other one open for guest having only access to internet. No share or discovery possible between 2 computer connect on the open wifi or to my network.
    If i need all my bandwich for one or other reason i can turn this access off for some time.

  50. Ja5087

    My network is WPA2 Hands down

  51. Mike

    Securing my network is a necessity for me due to the amount of transactions, secure email accounts, and social media I access daily. If anyone had access to these accounts, I’d go crazy contacted every website administrator to cancel/recover my account.

    I read one user claiming he uses WEP security due to the ability of “script-kiddies” to siphon his packets, extracting his usernames and passwords straight from his network. The issue with this is WEP is so easily cracked, your no safer than a completely open network. Give it a Google and you’ll discover public tools that can give anyone access to your network in as little as three minutes. I’ve tested it on my own WEP router and immediately updated to WPA2.

  52. Amin

    I remember a few years ago I found an unsecure wireless network which had a rediculously fast internet speed. I took full advantage of the situation, being an avid downloader. Then I felt guilty and just used my home internet connection which was four times slower.

    The matter of the fact is, if people would see an open unsecured wireless network, it would give them the message that; Yes, here is free internet, do what you wish.

    I would assume very few people would limit their usage simply because they are connected to a foreign network. For that reason, my wireless network is currently LOCKED, and i cannot imagine any circumstance where i would keep it open.

    I pay for my connection, if I give it for free, i’m generous. If I don’t, then I simply don’t and theres nothing wrong in that.

  53. AbbaDabba

    Not much interested in the FBI dragging me out of bed and putting me under the jail for kiddie porn. No, mine’s locked and will remain so. And WHY should I use my money to pay for someone else to get free internet? Get a wireless synch card if you’re not near our own router or if you’re too cheap to buy your own. Quit freeloading!

  54. Andrew

    I am locked down with WPA2. Hidden SSIDs and MAC filtering is useless security-wise. The article has a point though – if I was in an apartment or popular street corner, I might consider opening one up. I would have an aggressive content filter on it though to make sure they are not doing anything illegal.

  55. dave


  56. Jami

    I lock mine down completely. I barely want to share my bandwidth with my fiance let alone strangers. lol

  57. Alec

    My Belkin has a “Guest WIFI” option, which puts them on a different subnet :)

  58. Jordan Davis

    i used to run an open wi-fi network until i noticed that several unknown computers were on my “attached devices” list. now i have a closed network.

  59. Chuck1944

    Live in an apartment building in the middle of San Diego – NO WAY IN HELL would I consider an open wi-fi network. Have 3 computers and wired router and wired connections are just fine, thank you.

  60. Maxwave

    I have two routers, one is locked down and the other is open. The open router is running Jasager with a series of snooping tools. If you steal from me, I steal from you (passwords, content, etc.).

    The lesson here: Don’t use open networks you don’t trust. I feel that network security is getting better, opening wifi would be taking two steps back in this regard.

  61. Letsrock

    I live in the sticks with acres of land between me and my nearest neighbors. I still run a locked Wi-Fi network.

  62. Vickster

    No way would I leave my wi-fi network open. The cons far outweigh the pros.

  63. Richard Lozier

    Nope, closed from day one, 3 miles from town (farming area). Plenty of (free) Wi-fi in town.

  64. Chrunchstick

    I have one WPA2 secured rooter and a open wifi network for some kids in my neighbourhood with ds (Ds is not compatible with WPA2)

  65. matay0

    The hackability and man in the middle attacks are so easily aquired over wireless connectivity….
    to have everyone open it up to me is just scary from a accountability pov, I have mine on wpa2 and thats just for mobile devices really that dont do much cept browse…..wireless aint safe for nothin else.

    I like HTG, keep your stuff coming :)

  66. Phasr

    I would say “no” to your question, but default to, “hell no!” ….and I am hardly even paranoid… well, not so you would notice…

  67. John

    OPEN to all


    It is true, abuse will always exists as people does too, the world is not balanced,

    1.It would be good if I travel to a foreing location and have not internet plan, to just open mi wifi-Ipad or laptop, or phone, use any connection, read my email, send a picture, find my way to my destination cause Im lost or any other.
    2.It would be great to support my clients from any place without paying

    YES: in a world where people do NOT abuse people, YES, but in this CRAP world, where people give a f#$#$# about others, where you try to steal from me, where you try to benefit yourself and not think that at any given day and time you could be in my position, NO….we need long range missiles to keep you really on sight, you ABUSER, you PEDOPHILE, you moron with not principles, culture or education, NO….. do not open your connection, protect yourself from dogs out there and people with no respect for life.


  69. Dee

    My home and business network is locked down; to the gentleman above: get away from ATT and you will be most happy :)

  70. MJC

    With the legal issues, it’s just not worth it.

  71. John in Brisbane

    I like the idea and the principle but worry about the implications, if only WRT excess usage charges. As internet gets cheaper, eventually no one will care and your devices all have their own unique identifiers anyway. My compromise is that I have given a neighbour access to my router and she buys me a Subway 12″ sub every month :-). Maybe I should expand? lol. If I ever start my fabled cafe/bar/venue I would offer free wifi as a matter of course. For now though I’ll be playing it safe.

  72. Kellianne

    I’m too new to this, and don’t know how to do a “security enabled” install. Every time I have tried to secure the router, it won’t work. When I leave it open, I don’t have any issues with connections. Also, I am a light-weight user (Maybe 15 hrs a month) and I could care less if someone else is using the connection. However, I have noticed that my laptop is ‘finding’ additional networks in my apartment building that didn’t used to exist (and yes, they are all secured).

  73. Geeman

    Locked down! Don’t beleive in welfare especially for technology. Everyone needs to pay their fair share. Even if it was free to me, I would still lock down since that IP is registered to me and I am responsible for all traffic across it. DO NOT NEED THE HEADACHES!

    Lock ’em down folks……

  74. Grump3

    Open…no-one else can get within range here.

  75. Hisa

    Never. Too many legal issues that you can get tangled up with. And with all the companies putting limits on services and caps on usage, it just costs too much money to trust someone you don’t know. I wouldn’t let random people pop in and use my cell phone for whatever they wanted, so I sure as hell am not going to allow them to use my network where I am transmitting important if not sensitive information. Always locked down; never ever open.

  76. Jim

    Locked down. I haven’t read of, nor can I think of any rational reason not to.

  77. ShaunnyBwoy

    Locked down b WPA2, and even thinking about MAC specific too. I live too urban an area to share any of my network outside my apartment, and with all these legal horror stories occurring, I rather not risk it.

  78. sir_ken_g

    Obiously many people do. When I travel i can almost always find free WiFi. Most of it is folks who have no idea how to secure thier WiFi. Mine is and I don’t and won’t share.

  79. Saptashwa

    Well, we here (in India) don’t even get 400Kbps+ speeds most of the time. And torrents and all downloads have a cap of 220Kbps. So, if I want to donate my line, only then will I “open” it.

  80. Demetre

    I lock and filter MAC addresses…
    Why ? Because:
    a) I have a fixed D/Upload rate and every extra GB will cost me extra money,
    b) I don’t want to have my connection used for “illegal” activities by others and I end up getting blamed by the authorities…

  81. Walad100100

    Open but hidden — no encryption.

  82. mike

    my isp is bt therefore if I use their router I broadcast not one but two free wifi connections. BT are emphatic that this is not taken from my BB bandwidth and not even from my telephone line!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Why do I not believe this??????? because my linksys router connects to the internet with almost 1.5Mb increase in speed and if I remove the linksys and set up the BT router it goes down immediately by the same amount. I do not like someone else sitting on my connection using bandwidth that by rights is mine and I have the same skepticism about BT claims that my information on my wifi cannot be grabbed by hackers.

  83. Rich

    locked. no moochers allowed. EFF can bite me, on this issue.

  84. Wayne

    I keep my wireless networks secure. I don’t need to get in trouble because someone uses it for illegal purposes. The concept is nice but people take advantage.

  85. Elliot

    I would love to be a “good Samaritan”and provide some (reasonable) access to someone in need.
    Unfortunately, I live in the Big Apple, and I would consider that extremely foolhardy, both for legal liability and to safeguard my personal data.
    I lock down my WiFi with WPA2 and disable SSID broadcasting.
    I suppose that if I lived in an Amish neighborhood, I would not have to worry about people downloading porn :-)

  86. dana ross

    I keep our wifi free for all to share. I’m not worried about invaders and it doesn’t spread that far anyway.
    I suppose that if we get caps on usage we will protect it.

  87. kantspell

    live in Hoboken.n.j. 200k pepole per sq mile i run it unlocked free 4 all, just 2 beat virzriseon from sellin the sevice to the 20 famalys in my building. filos 4 all..sofar its hasent slwodown any..payin for 15mbite never goten more than 10mb even when it was lockeddown..

  88. Jeff

    Yes, and I leave my house unlocked with the door wide open 24/7. I also leave the keys in my car, run down the middle of the street with a sharp knife and publish my SS # in the news paper. NOT!!!

  89. Tony

    Definitely! Some ISP’s are now limiting your monthly data threshold…with open wireless, someone could be downloading GB’s of data through your connection. Also, I prefer nobody else on my network sucking up my bandwidth. Of course we must consider the security issues as well. It’s like leaving your wallet on the side of the street…someone’s gonna take it.

  90. Lwolfc

    I’d love to be able to open my wireless to public access, but I dont think it’s a good idea as there are too many undesirables that would/could take advantage or abuse

  91. Sparksalot

    No sharing here. Too much risk.
    WPA2 with MAC filtering.
    Just bought my daughter a Netgear Rangemax WNDR3700 which is a dual band router. Might consider opening up a ‘Guest’ portal, but why give it away free when I’m paying $60.00 a month for the World Wide web. There are probably 4 out of 8 unsecured networks in my neighborhood that I could jump on at any time. I don’t get on them (ethics?) but I imagine I could expand my music collection (if they have those folders shared).

  92. bill

    I run open wi-fi in South Carolina I have place out in the country… my wireless router is open
    but my both my WAPS I just recently locked down now, because they put out a signal for along ways. Wonder if I can open them up with out having a problem. I really like the idea of free INTERNET and (SIP) Phone for everyone where ever they are.
    I started locking my wi-fi down in California where I live, after someone hacked in and caused
    big time problems for me.

  93. mike

    I run a WEP secured LAN in my house. I have a wireless Inkjet printer upstairs and use my netbook in the living room wirelessly. I have gigabit wireless with an N dongle on my netbook. Shows 270mb compared to 54mbps using 80211g. We use Vonage for our telephone service and although I’ve never heard of anyone hacking into VoIP someones probably trying or tried it. I don’t want to assist them.
    Everything else in the house is wired, including two TiVo’s and a
    Sony Bravia adaptor on the TV. I use cable internet and see no point in making a hotspot available to others$.

  94. Jake Ortman

    I would love to, but I’ll echo the other folks here: I’d leave a piece open if I didn’t have a low cap on my usage (100GB) that I’m already pushing every month as it is (BendBroadband — Cable company in Bend, Oregon, one of the first folks in the nation to cap things). I do have a public WiFi node running at my office for access by the general public, but I run it on a separate connection than our main office connection, and also run it through a filtering firewall (currently the software from, but I’ll be swapping it out with a pfsense box shortly) and force folks to agree to terms of use before they can use it. That should (hopefully) cover us 99.9% of the time.

  95. ChuckTheGeek

    Ours is locked down. I have no desire to be awakened at o-dark-thirty by the cops executing a warrant against me for kiddie porn because some barfbag parked on the street and used my wi-fi to download a bunch of images.

  96. Mac

    Yes, I run my wireless open, and unencrypted. I know some consider the use of an open hotspot to be theft, but I respectfully disagree; my ISP has been paid, the service is now mine, and I choose to share it. I take steps to protect my in-house LAN, but access to the internet is open to my neighbors. Could bad things happen? Maybe. But I am not a cop, and certainly not sworn to protect some corporation’s (alleged) IP rights.

  97. 3REV

    I live in the suburbs and I lock it down (WPA and Mac Filtering + other internal security). The EFF isn’t paying my Internet bill, nor will I count on them to defend me if my neighbor hijacks my Wi-fi for Kiddie porn, or movie rips or whatever the govt decides to make illegal. But my biggest point is that it is mine, I pay for it, you want it, you pay for it. I read their paper and its really just a bunch of “information/bandwidth wants to be free” “captalism is bad” hippy-dippy bull shit. Bandwith is now a commodity just like anything else. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way but we live in the real world and in the real world if people place value upon something then people are going to pay for it. In the real world, Free/endless supply = endless demand and eventually demand will always outstrip supply if you give it away thus negating the whole “Spectral efficiency” argument. If you want to give your access away, that’s your business you paid for it but don’t expect me to give away mine to any Tom Dick and Harriet driving by in the wildeness in need of digital map to watch his netflix.

  98. AE8994

    I lock mine down as much as I can and wish I could lock it down more. I don’t broadcast my SSID. I use MAC filtering and signal encryption. I just don’t think the benefits of open sharing outweigh the potential threats. The Internet was designed by well-meaning, naive engineers. Too many abusers to be so optimistic.

  99. bill

    Unfortunately… This is scary but could be implemented probably easier than IPV6
    1. Update router IOS and modify packet/frame encapsulation to encode and never remove the originating MAC address (I believe there is some empty space in packets) the frame would have 2 MAC addresses all the time origination/destination.
    2. Come up with a way to register MAC addresses of network cards to owners either by drivers license number, address or some other type of tracking

    Then stop routing anything with a single mac or that isn’t registered at the Telco/Data Center level.

    Then everyone could run open WI-FI everywhere… I know it is mind blowing but from what I hear almost every packet on the internet is being managed/snorted/sniffed now. So whats the difference?

  100. UpNorth

    I’ve seen 3 people complain about their cap at 100, 150 and 250 Gb. I assume that is per month, and they say they would open it if that cap would be removed. And one complained that their ISP locks torrent downloads at 220kb/s so apparently very slow. You guys must be kidding and living in a dream world.
    Let me introduce you to my world. 10/gb a month limit (yes that is ten, not hundred) every gig over 6 dollars. If ISP detects torrent, shareware activity on my connection everything gets turned down to dial up speed 1 – 5kb/s.
    Now do I run an open Wi-Fi, not all the time but sometimes I leave it open.

  101. Steuck

    WPA2, hidden SSID and MAC filtering. I dont pay 50 bucks a month for the noisy people next door to hog all my bandwith…

  102. Eric

    I live in the middle of nowhere (Southern Sweden, no city) and still protect my Wi-Fi with a passwor. Why do I do that? Because it feelsgoodman!

  103. dan8685

    Leave my Wi Fi open? Absolutely not! Too many people out there who could use it for things I wouldn’t approve of. Worst of all would be the child porn creeps. By the way I have a cure for that problem, a small piece of lead.

  104. Steuck

    @Jon Its called backtrack. I could sit in front of your house and crack your wpa2 63-character random alpha-numeric key in 30min tops

  105. dhslyfox

    Mine is LOCKED. Not so concerned about people living around me as those who drive the streets looking for a network to use. Also, If I pay and I am responsible for how it is used, I am not going to let just anyone use it.

  106. Kev

    Though we live in a small remote village, i have WPA, available IP’s limited to the number of devices I have attached, and only allow devices from a pre-configured MAC list. If I have the inclination to get up to no good I can always log on via an unsecured connection across the road :D :D

  107. Steve

    I’m locked, but it really doesn’t matter if your a simi-good hackman~ They can get in if they really want too, seriously!

  108. Tom Slaughter

    I pay for my Internet service, and I expect others to pay for theirs. So there is no “WiFi Welfare” on my service. I keep my connection locked down, and will not open it up. There are way too many perverts out there that will use anyone’s Internet service to download all sorts of stuff that you do not want being traced to your WiFi Network. Just think child porn for one. People have been ruined because someone used their WiFi Network to download child porn without their knowledge, and the authorities do check and go after that kind of stuff, as I’m glad they do.

    So if you are foolish enough to run an open WiFi Network, be prepared to face something very bad coming down. All this share everything mentality is just plain crazy in today’s world.

  109. Steve

    @ stueck…. TOTALLY CORRECT!

  110. Steve

    Sorry.. Steuck

  111. Tom Slaughter


    I’m willing to bet you a good sum of money you couldn’t crack mine.

  112. Steve

    @ Tom Slaughter: Wish I could get in on that wager! lol

  113. Steve

    I’m locked, but it really doesn’t matter if your a simi-good hackman~ They can get in if they really want too, seriously!

  114. Monicoj

    No way I’m going to open my network. People can not be trusted. It’s like asking for troubles. If a friend of mine wants to temporary use my network I’m just creating a guest network (I’m on Apple Airport Extreme Station) with new password and I’m switching it off as soon as my guest leaves.

  115. Chandra

    Mine is locked because
    1) I pay for it… I pay a lot! You want to pay me to use my connection, I’ll think about it.
    2)I share my connection with two laptops, a desktop, an Droid, and two PS3s, I don’t have the bandwidth to share it with the world…

    HOWEVER, I am more than willing to share my connection with regular trusted visitors to my home. I will even set their laptops or other mobile devices to auto connect.

  116. Ken in Florida

    I use a secure network. I don’t need anyone sharing it, especially those who could do harm to me or my information. Sorry, but if someone wants to connect, let them do it at a cafe or the library.

  117. Tom Slaughter


    I have a good friend who knows how to do it, and he couldn’t on mine to save him. Won’t say how I have it secured, but it’s secured. Would take a very long time for someone to crack it.

  118. Furryface

    My router is locked but visible. I would share with a friend if they asked and were willing to pay part of the cost. I know this is against the rules of my ISP but they charge more than enough now and they are starting to put caps on usage. Friends would have to agree not to do anything illegal and to keep downloads to a reasonable level. I am not a heavy downloader at all so I only have a “lite” connection anyway. I don’t need a standard “high speed” connection.

  119. joe shmoe

    250 gigabyte limit?! Wow I pay 60 bucks a month in toronto and have a 40 GB limit, every gig after that they charge 2 dollars for… Its gouging at its finest :( google to help stop this horrible canadian lockdown (and you can guess that yes my wifi is locked down at those insane prices)

  120. MaraJade in Michigan

    No, I do not operate an open wi-fi network. I work at a large and very busy church, it never ceases to amaze me how people feel they should be entitled to free access through the church’s network. People! We have sensitive financial data, social security numbers, names and addresses in our database. Do you REALLY want to risk the security of this information? No, didn’t think so. There’s a Starbucks just down the next block.

  121. JP

    If I am paying for my connection, I’ll be damned if I’m going to share it with the public! I have this puppy locked down tighter than a virgin on her wedding night!

    I use WPA2 and I don’t allow anybody access to my network, whoever it may be! Call me paranoid but rather be safe than sorry!

    I’m just saying…

  122. Stan

    I wouldn’t mind having an open Wi-Fi network but don’t because I have many of my important files being shared with other users within my network. If I open the network to everyone….well, I’m sure you understand.

  123. Jason West

    If no one secured their network, almost no one would need cellular internet service, saving the world trillions of dollars, that could be spent on heat care or food for starving people. Your paranoia and insistence on scarcity is the reason so many of you can’t seem to bring any significant abundance into your lives. It’s not about you and your personal shiny things. We are all, or should be, connected. It’s a theory of non-disconnection.

  124. Jolyn

    My personal routers… I keep secure. I went out one day to find a neighbor who lives four doors down parked on the grass of my next door neighbor accessing MY wi-fi. Since that time, I secure my router. Here at my father’s home (I am primary care-giver) and at my own personal home. I do not mind sharing the signal when someone asks me. But not real fond of someone PARKING on my neighbors grass to access the wi-fi point. That’s just not right. I also volunteer at our local computers club and our router is wide open there. As are many public places around town. No need to “steal” the signal from a neighbor when you can park in a parking lot, not damage any grass and connect. . . peace ;-}

  125. UpNorth

    @jp quoteIf I am paying for my connection, I’ll be damned if I’m going to share it with the public! I have this puppy locked down tighter than a virgin on her wedding night!

    So you mean wide open?

  126. Jason West

    It’s amazing that everyone thinks their neighbor is “stealing ” their Wi-Fi to download terabytes of internet porn. Chances are much more likely they are sending an email or a Facebook post saying, “I love you.”, “I miss you.” or “I’m glad you a part of my life.”

    Some people believe they live in a hostile world. Some believe they live in a friendly world. It’s the same world. – A. Einstein

  127. trtrk9118

    I have my wifi locked tight and intend to keep it that way. I do not visit sites the could cause problems and don’t want anyone else on my net doing that.

  128. KCP100

    I have WEP on mine, which can be cracked easily no matter what the password is, its WEP lol.

    My password is 0123456789

    Im not trying to lock it out completely, I know if somebody wants on it and they are tech savy they can break the password in minutes, and I probably wouldnt care, but it just stops the general public from hopping on because they can

  129. Frodo

    FOR SETTING UP THE NETWORK i find that unsecured is easier on myself. AFTER THE INITIAL SETUP when all the devices are playing nice with each other, I never go under WPA security with a MAC Address filter

  130. THARRIS

    I no longer run an open wi-fi network. I did previously when I knew my neighbors. I recently moved and my router is now locked.

  131. Bryan

    mine is locked down with wpa2, dont want google driving by with there street view camara and ‘accidently” stealing all my information

  132. Scott

    My Wi-Fi is locked down but I maintain a guest log in and have on occasion shared the guest password which has bandwidth limits as well as some limited securities.

  133. deviator

    Well, no. I have a really very long password made of random characters and mac address filtering is enabled, too. Althoug filtering doesn’t bring real security.

  134. Richard Walker

    Just open one machine to WiFi and leave the rest locked down.

  135. Bruce

    I do computer consulting and I always advise my customers to lock down their wireless. One customer decided not to. They live near a public park. Someone in the park connected to their wireless and downloaded child porn.. The police served them with a warrant and took their computer and backup drives.
    Let this be a warning.

  136. Bob-El

    Wow! Lots of comments and opinions here. However, I feel I must contribute my 2 cents worth. My network is locked down. Partly because I pay for my service so why should I share it. My neighbours pay for their services also and, so far, everyone I can “see” from my home is also locked down.

    But my concerns go beyond that. I wasn’t 100% sure that it was necessary to secure my wifi until I read an article in our local newspaper. An elderly couple was arrested a few years ago for downloading child porn. That’s a major issue these days. To make a long story short, they got off because they were able to prove their innocence. They had an open network and someone used it to download that stuff. However, it’s impossible to measure the grief these folks went through being arrested, having all their equipment seized, their house searched, taken to jail, fingerprinted, etc, etc.

    So, as far as I’m concerned, you’re pretty foolish or naive if you think it’s smart to operate an open wifi network anywhere. Remember, bad things happen to nice people.

  137. Mike

    I live in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia, and I pay more than anybody should for a crummy connection that maxes out at 3Mb. On top of that there is a cap of 25Gig. Share? You gotta be joking…

  138. Ron

    I lock ours down with WPA2.

    While I get what the EFF is trying to encourage, I can’t afford to be so philanthropic as to give bandwidth away and sadly, some of my neighbors would FREEload off any available connection.

    Also, I’d be concerned about people using my network downloading bad things and me having to deal with proving that it wasn’t me.


  139. anon

    Prob already been said. .
    But with the current law changes, open wi-fi in New Zealand will be a thing of the past.
    $15,000 fines and accounts suspended for 6months if your ip is caught in 3+ illegal file sharing offences. They are also adopting the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach, where the account owner gets all the blame unless they can prove it wasn’t them or that it wasn’t illegal.
    So no way ill be leaving my wi-fi open.

  140. Billman730

    I have only 5mb D/L so if someone uses my WiFi my ROKU starts to lock up and hang. Since I don’t have cable tv I need the bandwidth to see what shows I can get on the internet.

  141. DrBob

    I lock mine down completely. I also log attempts to access the network and check out those who make repeated attempts to get in. I have identified many who would seek to crack the network. All networks are vulnerable and the only defense is due diligence.

  142. AlexNet0

    I may be a whole different type of geek, but am I the only one disturbed by the image of the laptop being used on the ground outside?

  143. John

    Locked. However, that really doesn’t mean much as someone is out there working on how to crack the newest stuff. It is an uphill battle. The EFF would be better off pushing the internet COMPANIES to offer free public wifi instead of the paying public.
    I work hard all day and pay for my wifi. If you want wifi, GET A JOB!

  144. RickS

    I didn’t know any better at first so it was open. Found out somebody was downloading movies.
    Didn’t mind travelers using my signal but movies was too much. I locked it up tight as a bulls butt at fly time.
    For the longest time people would go on for a few minutes when they stopped at a gas station close to me. They just checked their emails and sent some. No big deal. Our local non workers wouldn’t listen when asked to stop downloading movies. They screwed it up for others.

  145. Mohit

    being a student…my mom got me a connection that gives me 1.5 gigs of bandwith along with night unlimited. how do you expect me to do all this!

  146. tommy2rs

    Not now, not ever, never. I need all my bandwidth and won’t share it with freeloading leechers. Of course out here in the boonies there’s no one close enough to me to have to worry about.

  147. vicsar

    NO way José! I only share it (rarely) with the neighbor and only if it is an emergency he/she is having. I give them a temporary password and monitor the bandwidth usage :)

  148. ray

    i dont mind sharing a open source because an on an open connection now and i will be installing net and a router in a few weeks and would be glad to share,but if my bandwith is being sucked too much then limit when in use and at night when i sleep take off the limit

  149. El Chupacabra

    I have a registered sex offender living across the street. Need I say more?

  150. Jimh77

    Our Wi-Fi is locked tighter than a crabs A$$. We live in the middle of nowhere where the deer, turkeys, coyote’s, chip munks and woodchucks run freely around our house daily. Still locked up,waterproof. Can’t be any more waterproof than a crabs A$$.

  151. Tim Miller

    No way would I run open. I live in a large apartment complex with a halfway house across the street. Not to mention all of the information I keep on a NAS. I even bought a cheap router to limit the broadcast range. Anyone that is inside I will gladly give access to (even iPhones) but I wouldn’t give unmonitored access for anything.

  152. N

    Locked down on WPA2. My Internet’s slow enough, plus I don’t want to risk hackers and whatnot. If I had blazing fast Internet and hackers didn’t exist, then MAYBE I would consider opening up.

  153. Gemini566

    Interesting comments. Wi-Fi sharing? Family and friends, when they visit, are allowed unlimited useage.

    Unlike most of the hard done people above, esp the one from NZ (JEEZ! Are you for real?) I pay a very moderate sum for up to 20meg (£7.50/month) – I actually get a little over half that, but it still seems a lot compared to some.

    My d/ling is unlimited – though subject to a fair useage policy, which, if one is sensible, MEANS unlimited.

    Unless you are a spook and really, really NEED to see or steal my sexy screen savers, or mess with the website files I keep on one of my desktops – it would be easier to hack my host actually – you would need ten hours a day, seven days a week for the next millennium to crack my security algorithms.

  154. EricF

    My wifi is wide open.. for about 10 minutes until I lock it up with WPA–2 encryption using a 16character alphanumeric password.

  155. Paulgj

    Locked down WPA2 AES encryption with 63 random printable ASCII characters for the key. According to Steve Gibson this would take millions of years to crack using a brute force attack.

  156. Rob

    No way. I do not trust what they download, or access. And I do not trust them getting into my stuff. Hell, I do not even trust Google any more, and am dumping them’

    Secure your networks, and ENCRYPTED it ALL!

  157. Carrie

    Mine is locked down, but all my room mates and the few friends that might need WiFi while hanging out here have the password. Most of my neighbors are locked down too.

  158. Ryan

    I’m locked up tight with WPA2

    You know you can be responsible for what someone else does with your internet connection right?

  159. James Hayes

    I have an open network. We live out in the country and I am not concerned about someone using it. I do turn off the modem when I am not using the internet. Also turn of my computers when not using them.

  160. Bob Moulton

    No, absolutely not. I am vulnerable enough on the Internet itself without inviting anyone who drives by to pirate my connection or access my computers. Prefer not to use wi-fi at all.

  161. Scott

    I used to run open, now I have it pass-worded as SOMEONE decided it would be fun to use up all my download!!!

  162. Bodsda

    I have deliberately left mine open so that I can wreak havoc on anyone who tries to use my network :)

    Silly people using online banking over my wifi – thanks for your bank details , I’m buggering off on holiday

  163. Martik

    Mine is locked. Our neighbors are bunch of thief and will use the Gigs to zero (in a day) if it was open!

  164. Anthony Cedrick Allen

    I live in a rural area but I use WPA2 security and when I am setting up my friends’ network, I do the same. Security is very important in these times, in my opinion.

  165. Snert

    Mine is locked down. Security!
    I don’t want some jerk parked down the block with a laptop using the bandwidth I paid for.
    Said jerk could be a spammer, a child pornographist or worse. Why let them use your address to do the deed.
    I lock my house doors, my vehicle doors and access to my bandwidth.

  166. Saptashwa

    @UpNorth and all others – I don’t get 220kb/s speeds. I get 220Kb/s or 1.7Mbps(mega-bits/s)+ speeds. Which means 1 MB (Mega-BYTE) in 5 seconds. And it’s capped to a very large extent. Can you believe that I once got 3.0Gbps- (yes, it went on decreasing to 220Kb/s, but took 1 hour to do so) speeds – downloading. It was pretty awesome.

  167. RocRizzo

    I leave mine open with an SSID of “VirusFactory.” Would you want to attach to an SSID with THAT name?

  168. Larry

    According to an article I read the other day it isn’t very safe to not use some security. Someone who did not have their security turned on had a visit from the police and spent a few days in the jail until they figured out someone got into his computer through his wifi and downloaded a bunch of child pornography. Narrow escape so let that be a warming to those who are asking you to open your wifi up. You never know who is asking or what their purpose is.

  169. Sandra Pohlman

    I live in a apt building in rural NJ. There are 2 buildings that can access my router. If I know of someone unsavory I block them. As far as I am concerned no free wi-fi for them. There are 4 people I have undisputedly allow to use my router. 1 is looking for a job. 1 is a single mother. My daughter lived in the building next door, and there was a family next door that I dearly love. I don’t like to necessarily lock down my computers wi-fi. I don’t ask anything of the others. 1 has offered, but he’s been looking for a job a long time and I’m on a fixed income and housing. I feel I’m in a better place than he is as he’s on welfare now out of benefits and depending on a family member.

  170. Kitty

    what I got from that article is there is currently no easy way for the common Jill on the internet to open their WiFi and still protect their system. I currently run mine open cause I know my near neighbors have their own systems.
    The news said someone a mile away can focus in on your open wifi and use it for illegal purposes so that’s sort of scary. It’s a pain to call the provider and then the router manufacturer to learn how to password protect my router, so I haven’t done it yet, but I may if I ever need a new router or get other problems.

  171. Dan

    Locked down, Hidden, Extremly complicated password thats changed once a month.

    Sorry.. but the cheapo free riding bumms that wrote the post on are in my mind nothing but a bunch of free loaders that dont want to have to pay for there wireless.

    I pay enough tax’s for some waste of air to live off my work/back much less share my bandwidth for free.

  172. Erik

    I run WPA2 and Access Control. If you don’t have both the key and a known MAC address, you’re not getting on the WiFi. We have enough trouble bumping up against the 50GB cap our ISP instituted recently. Definitely don’t need any help with that.

  173. AlexNet0

    @Kitty the instructions as to how to secure your wifi are in the documentation that came with it..

  174. Lineswine

    WPA2 all the way…BUT the next door & next door + 1 are on my wired network – I know & trust them.
    Other can DIAF – I’m not taking “the unknown” into any account.

  175. al prarie (female)

    I was an celebrated makeup artist before I met and became engaged to a Navy Seal. I lived with him in Okinawa FIVE years ago. Now I’m studing ‘hacking’ and writing a book about the below subject.

    This man has electronically stalked me since our break up five years ago.
    I am currently in mainland Thailand in an un-tourist location.
    My lap I brought with me from the States. In Thailand I’ve had the hard drive wiped out twice in two months because he placed a keylogger and Trohan horse on it.
    I have a cheap Thai phone with a sim card. He’s hacked into it twice. The wacko rocks on by letting me know what he’s doing. Yesterday he changed the calander on my phone to the date I flew from L.A.X. to Thailand.
    I changed my sim card,
    My computer crashed again.
    How he gets the time or illigally uses the U.S. expensive equiipment to track me is a question always posed to me and my answer is, “I do not know.”

    Any of you ‘geeks’ since I’m a beginner know how I can find out if he placed another keylogger on my lap without going back into a computer shop? I use windows 7. I use Mozilla to browse and avast.

    Thank you and much appreciated if I receive some suggestions.


  176. bac200proof

    i have a big house with thick walls my laptop can barley pick up signal on my ‘wrap-around’ wooden deck or in the house for that matter. i live in a rural area so no neighbors can steal my OPEN connection.

    but when i lived in the suburbs my locked down my router i shared my routers password with one of my neighbors but we’re friends and he isn’t a bandwidth hog only Googled and watched YouTube on his computer but i would kick him when i went on my torrent download binges ;]

  177. kyle

    I feel like people think not broadcasting their SSID is somehow adding additional security to their networks. Maybe it does from someone with no knowledge of networking, but if they have netstumbler or any decent network detection program, it really does nothing. To the people who are likely to ‘exploit’ your network, just not broadcasting the SSID does nothing. WPA2 with a decent key should be all you need. Also, if your not broadcasting, people who try to avoid channel interference might not know about your network and could use a channel thats too close to yours leading to speed problems.

    If my router supported it, I would run a separate open wifi segment with a heavily throttled limit. My next router will have this ability.

    My IP Address != Me. Thankfully judges have started to see this as well.

  178. Tech93

    HELL NO, there is no way that I want my bandwidth hogged by all my neighbours, I run everything hardwired cat5e, it can be a bit inconvienient sometimes but I feel musc more secure, Unfortunatly for me, I can’t completely turn off WiFi on the router my ISP gave me so I set it to not broadcast it’s SSID, a massive WPA2 key, and keep it on obscure bandwidths, while this doesn’t stop anyone finding it easily with some software like inSIDDer or NetStumbler, it stops people outside my house downloading using my bandwidth on their smartphones.

    Tho if there is an unsecured WiFi hotspot out there I’m happy to jump on it, I just ramp up my third party firewall and antivirus, make my workgroup some random name and disable all shares.

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