Are you a Wi-Fi thief?

More than half of all computer users have secretly tapped into someone else’s Wi-Fi wireless broadband network, according to a Sophos study reported by The Times Online.

But what most them didn’t know – or preferred not to think about – is that by doing so they were committing a crime for which they could receive fines or a suspended jail sentence.

The survey of British computer users found that 54% of respondents have illegally tapped into a private Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi networks are common home-based wireless broadband networks that can be created by purchasing a cheap Wi-Fi router.

According to The Times Online, police in Britain regard Wi-Fi tapping as a serious offence because the tapper can download illegal material to their own computer in a way that makes it appear the owner of the network is responsible.

Eleven people have been arrested for Wi-Fi tapping in Britain since it became an offence there.

For the owners of private Wi-Fi networks, the lesson is to ensure that security measures are in place to prevent unauthorised access.

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