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Ethical problems with Wifi experiment

The Dutch computer magazine Computer Idee! (intended for novice computer users) is critized for an article in which they investigated the behaviour of people on public wireless networks. The editors of the magazine installed a freely accessible public Wifi network at Shiphol Airport and monitored the usage of it. Obviously, there were people using this network and sending private data over it without any encryption. Now the editors of the magazine are critizied for not obeying the ethical laws common to the hacker community. Interestingly, this comment is made by Roel Schouwenberg, a researcher for Kaspersky.
I don’t think I agree with Schouwenberg. Computer Idee! exposed a real problem and in my opinion this is not a ethical problem. Users of public wireless networks should be aware that their data is exposed and can be used by anyone. Obviously, it is a bit questionabel that Computer Idee! stored the private data on their systems, but I think it is strange that researchers from Kaspersky are complaining about this. I think they should be complaining about the behaviour of users, who should use encryption technologies when sending private data over a public wireless network. Never trust systems and networks you don’t control.
But maybe Schouwenberg is complaining because the ignorance of users is essentially their business. If computer users were more security aware, the amount of virusses and other malware would be less, because the won’t be as succesfull as they currently are…. Making the public more aware and reducing the security risks by changing the habits of users is not in the interest of Kaspersky.


One Response to “Ethical problems with Wifi experiment”

  1. August 2nd, 2008 at 22:45

    Felix says:

    Interesting opinion. I think what’s missing here is that the usage of VPN/SSL to e-mail servers is still not standardized at Internet Providers. E-mail contains most of our private information. Online banking is secured with SSL, making it safe to use over any wireless network in the wild.
    But it goes without saying: “Once again, nothing is free. Not even a wireless network!”

    PS. typo’s: questionable, viruses