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Wi-fi wants to be free… except it’s not 1994 anymore

The Open Wi-Fi movement was on the front page of Slashdot yesterday afternoon. Predictably, comment #2 was, “give me immunity from the MPAA and RIAA and I’ll open my Wi-Fi.” Valid point. Very valid point.

Though there are other problems, too.

Spam is a problem, of course. Blocking port 25 would help, but still wouldn’t stop botnets from using stolen webmail accounts to send spam. I can’t stop that from happening, so I don’t want it happening on my network. They can do it from someone else’s network.

Crime is another problem. I don’t want illegal drugs, counterfeit goods, or other contraband changing hands on my network either. Additionally, there are certain images that I’ll speak no more of, except to say that if some sicko downloaded them via my network, my career and life might never recover. That sicko can use his own network–that way he’ll get caught and jailed sooner.

I remember the gold old days, and understand the value of open networks. When I started my career in 1997, my shop had no firewalls at all. None. Our DNS was open for all to use. So was our NTP server. Our mail servers were open relays. All of our machines had a real Internet address and no firewall, no restrictions.

It was great. When one of our servers was down, we’d just switch over to someone else’s server, and we’d return the favor when theirs were down. We had perfect redundancy. Then we had a rogue former employee, and realized just how vulnerable we were.

It would be nice if we could leave our doors unlocked in case someone needed a drink of water, and leave our keys in the car in case someone needed to run to the grocery store. The problem is, that’s not all they’d do if we left our homes and our cars wide open, so nobody does. Anyone who thinks networks are any different is either not paying attention, or is hopelessly idealistic. That’s why my network is on lockdown, and yours should be too, regardless of whether Dvorak thinks it’s a problem. And that’s why Windows goes out of its way these days to tell you if any network you connect to is secure or not.

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