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Colorado Sheriffs To WarDrive For Safety 297

rwx writes "The Sheriff's Department in Douglas County, Colorado says it's going to start warning computer users that their networks may be vulnerable to hackers. It plans on equipping its patrol cars with devices that detect unprotected computer networks, and distributing brochures to computer users in vulnerable areas, instructing them on how to password protect their networks."
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Colorado Sheriffs To WarDrive For Safety

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  • how long (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nafai7 ( 53671 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @03:59PM (#15630698)
    before governments try to make open wireless relays illegal? I set my wireless connection at home open on purpose...
    • Re:how long (Score:5, Interesting)

      by v1 ( 525388 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:22PM (#15631015) Homepage Journal
      I leave my WAP open. (of course I have set the administrator's password though) My wap's SSID is "call (my phone number)". So far I've only gotten one call but there are about 1/2 dozen regular users and the odd hit from a new MAC about once a week.

      The bandwidth they use is inconsequential. I suppose if a neighbor decided to go wild on bittorrent or something I might have to take action, but for now it's free lunch if you're in my neighborhood. That's the way I'd like it to be everywhere, so it makes sense for me to help it along in any way I can.

      The city next door has a public utility that does cable modems among other things. They have set up WAPs on street lights all over town, and if you have cable modem service you can use it to login to any WAP in the city. Coverage is pretty good, close to 100% downtown. It'd be nice if they would support it with tax dollars and open it up completely, but that's not terribly likely to happen. Maybe in a few years.
      • Re:how long (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:35PM (#15631166) Homepage Journal
        I have a distinct feeling that when the FBI kicks in your door and takes your computer to see what kiddie porn sites you've been surfing, having random unknown people using your internet connection won't seem so cool anymore...
        • Except for the logs of many other users using his connection, which afford him plausible deniability.
          • You are making an assumption that this will be an adequate defence. If the GPP is in the US, don't count on it. In the US, you must Think of the Children! Once you say kiddie pr0n, then all thinking stops. Plus, the police are always right in the US. So, if they just shoot him they can say, "well maybe we saw a weapon" and that's that.
        • well then thgy won't know who to charge with a crime, will they?

        • Re:how long (Score:5, Interesting)

          by 2short ( 466733 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @05:51PM (#15632015)
          Better be careful, and don't be nice to strangers, or some completely improbable bad thing might occur! Be afraid! Be afraid!

          I can pick up 5-6 access points from my house. All are locked down except for one named "BeMyGuest"; I've used it a few times when my connection has been down, and when I figured out who's it was, I invited them to my barbecue. So I hereby counter your hypothetical, not very logical threat of an FBI raid, with the actual, already realized threat of: Free Beer.
        • Re:how long (Score:3, Informative)

          by Roskolnikov ( 68772 )
          If the FBI shows up looking for kiddie porn and you've got it I suspect they're not worried about the anonymous individuals who might have got their attention from your free WAP.

          In other words, if you've got an open WAP and there isn't any evidence on your systems you have little to fear and a lesson learned, freedom comes at a price;

          my WAP is open, it is linked to a multi-homed router that can tell the difference between my systems and others, my wireless systems can see
          my other home systems the rest are g
    • Re:how long (Score:3, Insightful)

      by houghi ( 78078 )
      I would welcome a law that at least forces manufacturors to sell them with secured settings by default.

      First connection and you are forced to change the password. Default password? No connection on your WAN.
      See it as car manufacturors selling cars with safety belts. That way when you decide to open your connection it is YOU who decide to do it.
      Most people won't bother, just change the default settings and be done with it and end up with a securer network.
      • Re:how long (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Phillup ( 317168 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:42PM (#15631246)
        Careful what you ask for.

        The law of unintentional consequences dictates that in order to fulfil your wishes... you will have to upgrade to the latest version of Windows to run that configuration software.

        (and yes... there are better ways to do it, but this is an industry pawning over the droppings of an 800 pound gorilla)
  • by Jabrwock ( 985861 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @03:59PM (#15630700) Homepage
    I don't see the harm. Now if they are doing anything like making notes on who's routers are open for future "fishing expeditions", I'd be concerned, but if all they're doing is saying "hey bud, your front door is unlocked, just ta let ya know..."

    Seeing as how most people have no idea that their wireless routers are so insecure by default...
    • They hired Chuck Norris to do it, and he's gonna roundhouse kick any open router he finds.
    • but if all they're doing is saying "hey bud, your front door is unlocked, just ta let ya know..."

      Personally, I wouldn't like it at all if the cops went around checking my front door to see if it were locked (especially if they did not obtain my consent to do). Of course, that differs a bit from scanning for open wireless access points because checking my front door requires them to trespass on my property.

      My bigger issue with the wireless scanning would be paying these public servants with my tax dollar

    • ...but if all they're doing is saying "hey bud, your front door is unlocked, just ta let ya know..."

      Exactly. I lived in a small town (in Colorado no less) where if you forgot and left your garage door open all night, in the morning you'd find a little note from the police on the windshield of your car. "Don't be a victim..." or some such.
  • by JayDot ( 920899 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @03:59PM (#15630705) Journal
    Will this limit access on that great free wireless lan called "linksys"? I hope not; I didn't want to have to actually pay for Internet access after college.
  • What would happen... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OctoberSky ( 888619 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:00PM (#15630713)
    What would happen if they came to my house? I have a open network (really an access point). We share no files between computers and if someone (neighbors, friends, guys in cars out front) wants to hop on my signal I couldn't care less.

    They can get online and I invite them too (network is titled "OPENNETWORK"). I wonder how the cops would respond if I told them that I purposely set it up to allow people to wardrive onto my internets?
    • They probably won't care? They're just letting people know that it can be insecure because most people aren't aware of it. It's like letting people know their front door is open. If you did it on purpose, that's okay. But if not then you may want to be told.
    • Note that your ISP terms of service may prohibit you from allowing third parties (even anonymous third parties without any profit) to access your network connection.

      I wonder how the cops would respond...

      They would probably say "okay, that's your choice... this was just a friendly note in case you didn't realize that your network was insecure."

      The police are maybe worried that open access points are easy on-ramps for malicious hackers (or "pirates"), since they can do some hacking/downloading and r
    • by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:14PM (#15630901)
      While I think it is great that you are running an open network for the benifit of others... and I wish that our society wasn't so damn authoritarian that it was something we had to worry about.

      But yikes, could you imagine the problems you could have if someone was using your open network for downloading child porn, or even for trading copyrighted music or movies, or for some sort of "terrorist" activity. Even if you have nothing to do with it, when the authorities have trouble catching the people actually doing the cimes they are going to look for a scapegoat, and that will be you for "recklessly enabling" the crime!

      I am not saying you are doing anything morally or legaly wrong, I think what you are doing is a good thing. But I think what you are doing is a bit unwise. Just like it is morally right for Falong Gong to openly practice their religion in China, but it is a very bad idea for them to do so... I say it is a bad idea to run an open network! Sorry, but your instinct for self-preservation should be higher than your altruism.
      • Yikes! Good point.
        • Very good point. I particularly like the part where he compares doing something perfectly reasonable and being persecuted for it in the US to doing something perfectly reasonable and getting persecuted for it in China.

          It's really too bad.
      • Forget downloading child porn - what if some guy was using your open network to distribute the stuff? Imagine the fun that could cause. Remember that the Supreme Court just approved "no knock" warrent searches. And, if the cops or Feds tear up your home looking for kiddy porn, even if you are perfectly innocent, they don't pay to fix it.

        So, while it is great to be nice and offer bandwidth for free, you are putting yourself at risk by doing so.
      • Gee, you're right! Better not help anyone, because they might be bad! It starts with running an open network, but next thing you know you'll be helping an old lady cross the street, and she could be a terrorist! Don't you know it's dangerous to go around being nice? Stay locked in you home being afraid, it's safer.
      • "Sorry, but your instinct for self-preservation should be higher than your altruism."

        Isn't it often people for whom this is *not* true that really get things changed for the better?

        Just saying.
    • Arrest you for theft of service, obviously...
  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:00PM (#15630715)
    What do you want to bet that the police will hassle the first person who:
    A) has permission from their service provider to offer a Wifi hot spot,
    B) wants to leave it open for the public, and
    C) tells this to the police officer who tries to give him a brochure?
  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:00PM (#15630719)
    He also says hackers can upload or download such things as child pornography.

    From a famous movie ... hackers penetrate and ravage delicate public and privately owned computer systems, infecting them with viruses...
  • Hackers? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gates82 ( 706573 )
    I love how the articles makes it sound like you need to be a hacker to connect and access the web through someone else's open access point. As has been argued many times, when you leave a WAP wide open you are infact authorizing anyone who connects the privilege of using that network. A request is made and access is given, but using the Windows Wireless Connection utility to connect would hardly be hacking.


    So who is hotter? Ali or Ali's Sister?

    • As has been argued many times, when you leave a WAP wide open you are infact authorizing anyone who connects the privilege of using that network.

      Maybe on /., but /. discussions don't mean shit in a court of law.
      • If you log your DHCP transactions then it looks like

        Laptop) Can I use your network?

        AP) Sure you can here's and IP address. If you want to access the internet then you'll need this gateway address. These are only good for 24 hours so ask me again if you are still here tommorrow.

        Laptop) Thanks!

        Your laptop, acting on your behalf, specifically ASKS if it can use the network which was advertized. The access point, acting on behalf of the network owner, then responds with an overwhelming YES.

        The closest real worl
  • Oh good! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:07PM (#15630804)
    I'm glad the policy are out making the city safe from wireless access points. Of course, now that all the drug dealers, rapists, pedophiles, theives, robbers, murderers, prostitutes, and school bullies are off the street, the next logical step is to make sure that the wireless APs are closed up.

    I can feel the warm safety of encrypted radio waves already!
    • Most of the beat cops don't do the investigation work. They deal with immediate crisis and if not doing that cruise around looking for problems. This is probably not going to be something they are actively doing but if driving through a neighborhood with nothing to do they might stop and drop off a letter.

      The letter is not a threat or violation but a courtesy notice that you are open to potential problems. It is exactly like a cop stopping and telling you your wife left the door to your house open. You
  • by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:09PM (#15630839) Homepage
    What do Sheriffs care about peoples' wireless network devices? Unless I'm bashing my wife over the head with my access point, I don't want a Sheriff to even tell me what to do with my freggin' network.

    What's next? Are they going to start testing peoples' front doors to see if they're unlocked? Again, it's none of their business, and it's wasting taxpayer money. Stick to your department, which is upholding the law.
    • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:54PM (#15631403)
      What's next? Are they going to start testing peoples' front doors to see if they're unlocked?

      And that would be a bad thing? Some years ago cities and police departments figured out that abandoned building were a breeding place for crime and started going after landlords to either secure the property or face penalties ranging from fines to loss of the property. The result was that crime dropped, and the neighbourhood became livable.

      Mind you I'm not suggesting an open network is analogous to a vacant crack house, but being a good and responsible neighbour is good for everyone involved, whether that's a residential area or the internet doesn't make much difference. It's perfectly reasonable that the responsibility is shared by everyone.

      If one of my neighbours leaves their door open, that's fine by me. But if the habit or a laissez-faire attitude starts inviting problems (allowing strangers to party, kids hanging out, etc.) it's a different story altogether. Similarly, I couldn't care less if the average Windows user can't or won't grasp the necessity of securing his or her system, but if that system starts spewing out spam that ends up in my inbox, then yes, I would care. Someone taking the trouble to get involved and checking up on such dimwits can only be A Good Thing.

      Stick to your department, which is upholding the law.

      Given the state of affairs today, I'd prefer everyone be required to pass a proficiency test and receive a license to use a computer. No, I'm not kidding. Until that or something similar happens, the "law" is going to remain a hodge-podge of rules and regulations that remain mostly unenforced leaving people to think It's All Good and what people do or don't do doesn't really matter since no one's in charge anyway.
      • by QCompson ( 675963 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @05:24PM (#15631761)
        And that would be a bad thing?

        Yes, how could police officers going onto your private property and testing your doors to see if they are locked possibly be a bad thing?

        I actually have a local policeman that comes into my house at night and makes sure I place my wallet in a secure location before I go to sleep. He also checks all the window-blinds to make sure no terrorists or pedophiles can see into our windows. Recently, I put in a request for a uniformed officer to monitor my children while they draw pictures; I wouldn't want them to poke themselves in the eye with a crayon.

        Given the state of affairs today, I'd prefer everyone be required to pass a proficiency test and receive a license to use a computer.

        Agreed. Computers are very, very dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. If there was some way we could pour money into a complicated beuraucratic licensing system, I'd be all for it.

  • by bigtrike ( 904535 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:17PM (#15630939)
    While they're at it, they may as well check to see that people's front doors are locked too. Criminals might break in and use their computer when they can't get a wireless signal.
  • Isn't this illegal hacking in some states? I bet if I drove by and did this I would get arrested. Obviously, the police are not subject traffic violations during pursuits and such, but making them above hacking and snooping laws is dangerous and unfair.

    I'm not really advocating charging police officers for this, it is really to point out how absurd such laws are.
  • These sheriffs are driving around searching for open networks.... Computer users are frequently warned not to store critical or sensitive data on their hard drives, but rather on backup media like CDs or DVDs. What's the worst that could happen to the owner of the router anyway through unauthorised use of it?

    From TFA:

    "If someone is driving by on the street they could easily use your internet access to commit a crime, whether it's fraudulent credit card transactions or surfing child porn or something e

    • From TFA:

      "If someone is driving by on the street they could easily use your internet access to commit a crime, whether it's fraudulent credit card transactions

      I found that quite amusing, especially given that credit card fraud is ranked right beside "car breakin" on the list of "things that cops don't give a shit about."
      I think what this is really about is wanting to peek into people's houses under the guise of "your AP is open". Basically it's exactly the same as having a traff
  • by johnny cashed ( 590023 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:20PM (#15630973) Homepage
    To surf for porn^H^H^H^H information while they are sitting in the cruiser at a remote location with the A/C running. Hey boss, I'm just in the neighborhood looking for open access points. Child porn is one of the big "boogeymen" out there. I'm suprized they didn't throw "terrorism" in there somewhere.
  • While handling out fliers, the sheriff deputies will also be checking out those tomatoe plants in the backyard and using a thermal imager on the house. Open wireless network connections may not be only thing that they're checking out.
    • You're on to something there. All the police need is a legitimate reason to get close enough to observe something. Kind of like when there's a crack house around, they get real strict on lane usage and turn signal laws - just so they can stop a car that they consider suspicious but wouldn't otherwise have cause to stop.

      Since there's no way they could know exactly which residence had the unsecured access point, they'd have to visit every residence in the vicinity. That gives the police the opportunity to
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:22PM (#15631012)
    Cops aren't supposed to armed and trained like the military. Their purpose is to keep the peace and peacefully prevent crime where they can. A large part of that is politely informing private citizens if they see something that could get them victimized. It's not common anymore because riding around with a loaded gun and the ability to bust down doors to raid drug users/dealers (if your stash is big, you must be a dealer). It's just not cool to do such old granny policing when the SWAT offers you the chance to play urban warfare with targets that typically don't fight back.
  • by Ocular Magic ( 948250 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:24PM (#15631031)
    I don't understand why everyone is getting so mad. It's not like they're going to use signal strength monitors to track the router in your moms basement. They're going to find neighborhoods that have a lot of vulnerabilities and distribute "FLYERS" to let people know how to secure their networks. If you don't want to secure it, don't. They aren't going to knock down doors and force you to do it. In my opinion, what they're doing is just a service. Of course, if they take it to the extreme and start forcing people to close their networks, it would be bad.

    The best example I can think of is the police driving through my grandparents neighborhood and noticing a lot of roll up garage doors partially opened to vent the heat buildup in the garage. Do they knock down your door and force you to close it? No, they sent out a flyer notifying people of the possible crimes that could happen as a result of it being rolled up. Am I missing something here?
  • I for once welcome our slashdotters overlords who, as soon as they read "police", think invasion of privacy. But in fact, the FA says that the officer offers brochures to computer users, not break in their home. For the ONE time a public service offers service to the public, our beloved geeks are still whining.

    I usually get allergies when I read "police" next to me, but this time, we have to admit it's a pretty good idea.

  • by Hannah E. Davis ( 870669 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:28PM (#15631084) Journal
    I'm actually surprised that they didn't do this sooner. There are a hell of a lot of unsecured wireless networks in any city, and it's not like the cops are peeking into anything that isn't incredibly public already. As an experiment, I once spent an entire bus ride home repeatedly scanning for wireless networks on my DS. Most of the ones I found were unprotected, including one which even had the word "secure" (written in l33t, no less) as part of its name. Unfortunately, all of the networks with particularly interesting or creative names were secure, including one called "No free internet for you", and another with the particularly clever moniker of "I steal credit card numbers." Gotta wonder what the cops would think of that one...
  • ...that neither the Sheriff's Office nor the local journalists who cover this will use the ridiculous and completely counter-intuitive phrase "wardriving" to describe what's going on.
  • by johnsu01 ( 759478 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @04:43PM (#15631271) Homepage
    The idea that an open network could be used for nefarious purposes is irrelevant. When you leave a tip at a restaurant, you might be enabling your waiter to go home later and purchase some child porn, or maybe even to buy a gun and kill somebody. There are any number of ways to connect each of us and the resources we control to criminal activities. But the ability to connect dots like this is not a sufficient justification for making policy that restricts the way we use or share our resources. Not only is it my right to share my network how I choose (assuming it's within the bounds of my ToS, although even then this is a contract issue and not one the police need to be involved in), but it is beneficial to society to allow this kind of sharing to happen, as people will use that connection for economically productive uses, and waste less time investing in security measures. It seems to me that they should be policing a little closer to the actual specific crimes they are worried about. If they are worried about child pornography, then monitoring close to the supplier is surely a lot more efficient than trying to monitor the wifi network of every single person in the county.
    • Thanks!

      I'll be sure to relay all death threats, skriptkiddy attacks on and irc bot-net controlling through YOUR open access point. Good luck handling the legal repercussions when the FBI or Secret Service has Comcast trace the activity - and it comes out to an IP assigned to you in their RADIUS logs. You'll EVENTUALLY be able to prove your innocence - but only after a lengthy and costly time in court trying to explain all of the above to a judge with the US District Attorney bea
  • equipping its patrol cars with devices that detect unprotected computer networks

    Boy, that's going to help me sleep so much better at night now.

  • by hurfy ( 735314 )
    I still didnt see everyone descibe how they find the owner of 'linksys'

    Arent the only people with an identifiable (phone#,name,???) network the ones that WANT to share. The people who don't know any better won't have anything other than 'linksys' or something correct?

    Either this does nothing cause they can't find the owner. Or it lets us know our neighbors have a access point available.

    Nothing particularly evil i guess, but nothing very productive either IMHO. Seems like another waste of $$, life goes on :(

  • it just bugs them that 'annoymous holes' can exist
    where people cant be traced to a fixed address on which
    to pin responsibility.


  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @05:15PM (#15631657) Homepage Journal
    C'mon at least make up a better bullshit story than "It's for your own good". You guys are parking on WiFi LANs so that you can claim you're looking for

    Kiddy Porn
    Child molesters
    Porn Molestors
    Sexual predators
    Kiddy porn predator molestors
    And terrorists.

    And you'll catch almost nobody except some innocent person as always.
  • ...and if they don't secure their network the next time they're caught, notify their ISP and have their account suspended. Don't arrest wardrivers for third degree felonies when it's the fault of the knowingly-unsecured wireless network owner to secure it.
  • Open, but you have to establish a VPN connection to the Linux box to actually get out on the Internet. The wireless network's treated as a semi-hostile external network. Non-private files such as Linux ISOs can also be served to the wireless network but not the internet by specifying the correct interface for read-only samba guest shares on the wireless side of things.

    I'll probably lock down the wireless network with WPA-PSK though, as I'm planning on doing VOIP over it in the near future...

  • by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @05:25PM (#15631772)
    Seriously, I walked around my (small) neighborhood the other day with a laptop and netstumbler. I picked up over a hundred networks, 90% of which were open.
    And yeah, I live in Colorado.

    It's great to know that the cops will now be focusing on the real danger. Instead of those drunk and/or reckless drivers, we'll be warning people about their wireless networks.
  • by Gat0r30y ( 957941 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @05:26PM (#15631783) Homepage Journal
    the Douglas County Sheriff's Office now gets free high speed internet from Comcast for their tireless efforts in making everyone pay for thier own cable internet... It's Craptastic!
  • This is actually nice -- now the police officers are engaged in wardriving []. Now I won't worry so much when I do it [], and the police wonder what all that equipment in my car is.

    I certainly hope they don't pay thousands of dollars for their wardriving rigs, and I also hope there is enough accounting to deal with abuses the police officers might feel the need to engage in.

    Perhaps we can send messages to our wardriving cops via the open wireless networks, like "Happy Wardriving!"
  • "I'm sorry Mr./Mrs. Jones, but you are using WEP/WPA your wireless network is not that secure, you are at risk of being hacked."

    Let's not forget how easy it is to hack WEP encryption.

    Also, I don't like how the word "hacker" is being thrown around. You don't do any hacking to connect to an open wifi network. Windows will even do it automatically for you. So, therefore, Bill Gates is hacking wifi.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @05:58PM (#15632080) Journal
    According to their OWN statistics, crime in Douglas county is on the increase, some of it quite serious, and these mutton heads want to go around wasting resources looking for open networks.

    You can find the statistics here []

    The numbers were up in all but a handful of categories.

    Murder & Non-Negligent Manslaughter - 3
    Negligent Manslaughter / Vehicle - 1
    Sexual Assault by Force - 73
    Sexual Assault on a Child - 104
    Incest - 15
    Robbery - 16
    Kidnapping - 72
    Assault with Weapon - 80
    Assault without Weapon - 551
    Burglary to Residence - 446
    Burglary to Non-Residence - 186
    Theft over $500 - 1021
    Theft under $500 and over $100 - 758
    Theft under $100 - 764
    Embezzlement - 1
    Possession of Stolen Property - 106
    Motor Vehicle Theft - 245
    Arson - 41
    Criminal Mischief - 1240
    Drug Violations- 569
    Bribery, Extortion - 22
    Gambling - 1
    Fraud - 899
    Pornography, Prostitution - 9
    Weapons Violations - 35

    The douglas county cops need to ge their priorities straight.


  • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @06:09PM (#15632162)
    distributing brochures to computer users in vulnerable areas, instructing them on how to password protect their networks

    Lame approach...that brochure will go in the basket with the aluminum siding ad. Better to leave them an email or an IM: "Hi there, Mr. Joe Blow! We were just driving down Partridge Meadows Blvd while you were browsing and thought you'd like to read this page about encryption and passwords..."


Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous