Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Secure your wi-fi or face consequences

State govt plans punitive action against users, housing societies and offices who don’t secure their internet connections against misuse

Internet users whose Wi-Fi connections are hacked into and misusedss, could face punitive action for not securing their accounts.

The state government has asked all municipal corporations in Maharashtra to make amendments in their building proposal bye-laws so that Internet users, housing societies and offices are held responsible if their Wi-Fi connection is not secured against misuse.

The state government has also said that municipal bodies that do not enforce the rules will also face the rap.

This decision comes as after the Ahmedabad blasts, it was found that American mutinational company official Ken Haywood’s Internet connection was used to send a terror email, minutes before the blasts. The building where Haywood stayed had Wi-Fi and he was one of the users.

The state government had recently held a high level meeting at which the decision to hold users and housing societies responsible for securing Wi-Fi connections was taken.

State chief secretary Johny Joseph said it was compulsory for Internet users to secure their connection. “They should take precautions so their Internet connection is not misused. While giving permission for the construction of buildings, the residents (building society committee) of the building should give an assurance that this will be done.

“Residents of existing buildings also need to inform in writing to the civic building proposal department, saying they have taken Internet connections that are secure. If despite warnings, building societies fail to secure their connections, then the municipal corporation and user will be held responsible if some body misuses the Internet connection,” said Joseph.

According to a senior state government official, the quantum of fine and punishment is yet to be decided.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) had written a letter recently to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh saying they have seen serious misuse of Wi-Fi or wireless networks by terrorists and others.

Many of the e-mails sent out by terrorists recently were sent through Internet connections in the city.

Mumbai city alone has some 15,000 insecure network connections according to the FICCI. “We should penalise people or companies that have insecure wireless networks.

We believe that unless there is a strong deterrance mechanism in place, people will not secure their Wi-Fi networks. We have suggested that Internet users should be given at least a month's notice to secure their Wi-Fi networks. After that, police and municipal authorities should clamp down on people who do not follow the law and charge fine or impose a prison term for frequent offenders,” said Sushil Jiwarajka, chairman, FICCI.

“Many countries have made it mandatory for Internet service providers to secure Wi-Fi connections before providing Internet access. We will not be the only country in the world to have a law which penalises insecure Wi-Fi connections. We are however, the first country in the world to see such misuse of insecure Wi-Fi connections,” Jiwarajka added.

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