Have you ever left your car lights on, or noticed when someone else has? Just last week, I left my van lights outside the coffee-shop one morning, and was grateful that someone passing by both noticed and popped in to let me know. Likewise, I appreciate it when people remind me of the keys I might have left on the counter, or of the dropped item as I pass by. In turn, I try to do a good turn myself when the opportunity arises; plugging an expired meter from time to time, holding open a door, letting people into traffic, etc.
Lately, I’ve added another “act of kindness”, although it might ruffle some feathers. When I find open accounts on unsecured wireless networks, I login and leave a message to let the account-holder know that they really ought to be more careful. The most pointed example of this has got to be Facebook; I simply assume the open account, and change the holder’s status to something like: “(Name Here) has just realized how potentially dangerous it is to surf on an unsecured wireless account.”.
I don’t dig further. I record nothing, and if anything, do my best to avoid actually knowing who the account holder is. That’s none of my business. If I saw a car driving down the door with their gas-cap unscrewed and flapping in the wind, I’d signal them and point their attention to it, not wait for them to pull over and then siphon their gas.
Maybe a few of my readers are still hung up on the whole technical aspect of how this works. In this modern networked world, if you don’t know what a packet sniffer is or how it works, it’s just willful ignorance. Suffice it to say that if you are connected to an unsecured wireless network without engaging some other specific encryption and/or security protocols, then anyone within typical WiFi range, using pretty much any other wireless device (laptops, tablets, phones, and some portable game consoles) can have basically unrestricted access to whatever you are sending/receiving. Yes, that’s perhaps an oversimplified explanation, but it’s basically correct, if not technically robust.
It’s not my intent to be mocking, harsh, or harmful; I just want to make people a little more aware of the privacy they are freely (if unknowingly) giving up.