As technology advances so does our need to use it in a variety of different ways and so does the criminal's need to find new and innovative ways of using this new technology to aid them in their quest to defraud and steal from us.
Wireless Internet connections are another weapon in the criminal's ever expanding arsenal.
Wireless Internet - or Wi-Fi - is designed to be able to send a digital signal from a machine called a router to any number of computers within a specific location. This location can be an ordinary home, an office, an Internet café, or any such building or location where internet connections are used with great frequency.
The principle of wireless technology is a rather simple but effective one: a signal is sent from a router and is picked up by either an internal wireless receiver or USB receiver fitted to another personal computer or laptop. Indeed most laptops are now fitted with in-built wireless technology reducing the need for external wireless receivers. Wireless receivers are required for PCs and normally come in the form of a USB device.
For the uninitiated, it is very easy to install a router and start using the internet wirelessly around their home. However the downside to this is that if the signal is not encrypted it can be picked up by anyone with a laptop within a certain radius of your home and they can not only use your internet connection for their own ends but they can - with the right software - access data stored on your machine.
Many people now keep their home or business accounts on their computers and an unencrypted wireless connection can mean the difference between having that information kept safe and having it available to anyone who has access to a wireless computer.
The first tell-tale sign is your browser:
These are the classic signs that someone is 'piggy backing' your internet connection. Likewise if you find that your internet connection is running a lot slower than it would normally, then this may be because someone nearby is using it at the same time as you.
Have a look outside to see if there is anyone loitering or sitting in a parked car? This can be a sign that someone is using your internet connection. However, given the radius of the wireless signal it could be an individual in a house nearby.
It is recommended that before you use your wireless internet connection, that you encrypt it. By encrypting the connection, it ensures that only authorized users can gain access to it.
Encryption should take place before you commence the usage of the connection and involves the activation of what is known as a network key. This network key can be made up from a random series of letters or digits or can be a specific password created by you for use on your network.
Never give out your password to anyone other than those using the network within the confines of your home or office.
All wireless products make provision for the use of a WEP key: WEP stands for Wireless Encryption Protocol and is used on the machine through which your internet connection first enters the property and also on any machine connecting to this machine. You should try and ensure the password - or WEP - is as difficult to guess by anyone other than those who use the network.
For additional help on this topic you should contact your local high street dealer who will provide you with help and advice and can offer a service that enables them to come and secure the network for you if you need help doing so. In addition most wireless internet receivers and routers now come with comprehensive manuals and step-by-step installation programs which allow for the introduction of a password from the very first moment the wireless connection is used.
It may also be worth speaking to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) about what steps they are taking to protect their customers whilst on the Internet.