Downloaders may piggyback on unsecured WLAN to flout new UK laws

Sophos is warning computer users of the importance of properly securing their Wi-Fi networks following reports that people who illegally download music and films may have their internet subscriptions cancelled.  The proposed Green Paper, which the UK Government is due to unveil next week, will require internet service providers (ISPs) to take action against the estimated six million users a year who access pirated material.

Sophos experts note that this legislation could cause headaches for both ISPs and Wi-Fi users, as customers can claim that other people have been illegally piggybacking on their internet service.  Last November, a Sophos poll of 560 computer users revealed that 54 percent have stolen Wi-Fi internet access in the past.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos commented:

Pressure is being put on ISPs to take action, but an open Wi-Fi hotspot may mean that it is you who ends up disconnected from the net while your next door neighbour is happily watching the Hollywood blockbuster they stole via your internet connection. People who illegally download material from the net aren’t going to have any qualms about stealing someone else’s internet connection.  The widespread scale of the problem not only means that there are likely to be innocent victims, but it also gives those people who have been making illegal downloads a plausible defence.

Under a ‘three-strikes’ regime, customers making illegal downloads will first receive an email warning, then a suspension of their account, and finally termination of their contract.  According to reports, ISPs that fail to enforce the rules could be prosecuted and details of suspected customers passed onto the courts.

The ISPs are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place – they are being leaned on by the movie and music industry to block pirate downloads, but at the same time they don’t want to alienate their customers by accusing them of something they didn’t do.  There is no 100% solution for blocking illegal downloads which doesn’t also inconvenience the innocent.

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