back to article EFF wants you to open your Wi-Fi to IMPROVE privacy

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wants internet users to go back to the turn of the century and open their wireless networks for anyone to connect, in order to enhance privacy. The EFF wants us all to use the OpenWireless initiative's free router firmware, which allows users to create open guest networks that anyone in …


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  1. Chad H.

    The EFF wants us all to use the OpenWireless initiative's free router firmware, which allows users to create open guest networks that anyone in range can use.

    the firmware would separate the private network from the public and limit freeloader bandwidth to about five percent of a subscriber's allocation.

    "EFF is currently working on router technology that supports open wireless in an elegant and secure fashion," the group wrote.


    So Basically, they want to do what BT have been doing with FON for years

    1. mourner


      What EFF want you to do is open your home WLAN for all and sundry to use.

      FON uses a separate VLAN, the users thereof have to authenticate, their traffic presents a separate IP address as the source to your current PPP / Bridged connection. i.e. there is no confusion between what originated from your internal LAN/WLAN and what any FON user may do via your connection.

      What EFF is asking for is dangerous for early adopters.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: No

        The article talks about a VLAN, which is separate from the home network, so I'm not sure how you think it isn't using a VLAN...

        What would interest me is how they will secure the connection, do they use a standard password? I certainly wouldn't use the connection is it wasn't encrypted - although it is perfect for setting up a man-in-the-middle anyway.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fon, Nice idea , but...

        Fon had repeatedly been asked if they can show what traffic came from what side of the WLAN, and have repeatedly parroted the line " We will be open with the law organization of any country." Which is not the same as saying they can tell, part of the reason I left FON years ago, along with the fact they gave all BT users FON access without requiring all BT users to supply their WiFi for free in exchange (the firmware would only work on Homehubs, and you used to only get a home hub with the top of the range service, but you could use FON with any BT account regardless of is you had a home hub)

        Many people in Germany left Fon for exactly the reason stated a few posts below, German law makes them liable for the traffic and FON could or would not provide any assurance they can differentiation traffic or authenticate the users. You only need to give an email address to FON to get access, and we all know how disposable hotmail/google etc accounts can be, and the person being nice and supplying Wifi would be the one who gets raided.

        And lets face it, any police raid will come in and seize equipment before asking any questions

    2. dogged

      Considering that FON absolutely never works without demanding money, I'd guess probably not.

  2. Steven Roper

    Doesn't matter how little it uses

    It still allows strangers to use my Internet connection and consume my bandwidth allocation, for which I pay. I commented before about Telstra foisting this on their customers and my opinion on that hasn't changed.

    Also, I don't trust this "separation from the private network" they speak of. On my home network my wireless is secured with WPA2-PSK, suppressed SSID and MAC filtering for any WiFi device trying to connect to it. Under all this, I have multiple folders shared across my computers, many writable as well as readable, and mapped as network drives. This is to facilitate passing Cinema4D files to my render farm and rendered images back, transferring data to and from my private website testing server, streaming movies, music and TV shows to my TV and various portable devices, and so on. I've maximised security externally and minimised it internally so I'm not bothered with having to grant access and enter passwords every time I want to get something from another computer on my network.

    As a result, the thought of allowing strangers into my WiFi, regardless of any "separation", gives me the willies. Not going to happen. Not on my watch.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Doesn't matter how little it uses

      This is a guest network, like the guest network option that most modern routers already support. It creates a separate VLAN which cannot see your internal network.

      If you aren't on a flatrate / unlimited package, then it is a cause for concern. But over here you don't generally get a talking to if you keep it under 500GB/month.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't matter how little it uses

      There's also the legal problem. It's all good & well of the EFF to make those claims of "freedom", but I am responsible for this circuit, so if someone starts abusing it for something dodgy it means I have been assisting in this.

      I quite simply do not trust any activity with my resources I cannot fully control myself. That's a matter of principle.

  3. JaitcH

    Been doing it for years - only three baddies

    My employers office is on a hill and together with directional antennae from TP-Link, coupled with their 701 range extenders, we have provided access to our fibre optic feeds.

    Users have to complete a minimal registration page and agree to Terms then they are free to do their things.

    A total of three users have broken the rules and two of them agreed to stop the abuse and were allowed to return. If you wack abusers hard and use a firewall we've found troubles are minimal.

    I have a much smaller system down at Dak Lake but it serves most of the village. New software might answer a few challenges we have.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Been doing it for years - only three baddies

      The one problem, here in Germany, is that if you open your connection up for others to use, you are automatically classed as an Internet Provider and that means that you are automatically responsible for everything that goes over your pipe, unless you log exactly who was accessing the link and when, so that if they were uploading copyrighted material or uploading/downloading kiddie pr0n, you will be held responsible and have to pay the fines/do the prison time if you cannot prove it was somebody else on your connection.

      1. Grikath

        Re: Been doing it for years - only three baddies @ big_D

        While your comment on german law and liability is technically true, a bit of digging shows it doesn't work that way. In fact up to the highest federal level the opinion seems to be that public WLANs, unless specifically set up to perform illegal acts, are nothing but a connectivity portal service, and that as such the operator cannot be held responsible for actions of a third party.

        From what I read it's a matter of the law not having caught up with technical reality, and the issue being well known in the legal circuit. The good and the bad, since plastering cease-and-desist notices seems to be a bit of a lucrative hobby with some law firms.

        But while a connectivity scheme like this would technically put some people at risk, practice is that the proposed setup ( essentially one box providing two services, one public, the other private) would not get you into trouble if used as intended.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Been doing it for years - only three baddies @ big_D

          It also depends on the state you are in. There have been decisions which have gone both ways. The actual problem started with a woman who installed an AP for her family, but set it up without any encryption or authentication, so she was prosecuted for uploading illegal material, because she could not prove (through the use of logs), that it was no her, whilst the music label could prove that it came from her connection.

          The outcome was, if you have an open network, you are responsible for everything that goes on on your network and you have to keep a log of who connected, when and what they did. If you have a password (WPA or WPA2) and you get hacked, then it is not your fault, as long as you can prove the files didn't come from your PC. Then you can make a "complaint against persons unknown" for breaking into your property (in this case your WLAN).

          Guest networks are still a bit of a grey area. It seems to depend on which court you end up in, whether it will be dismissed straight away, or whether you will have to fight for years until you end up in the federal court for the final word.

          For most people, it is much simpler/safer just not to have open / guest wi-fi.

  4. mourner

    Just - no

    While I applaud the EFF for the effort, this just is not going to happen.

    Sure, it's pretty much established in both the US and the UK that a specific action (grabbing a copyrighted work, posting a bomb / TERRIST! threat, kiddy fiddling etc.) cannot legally be tied to an individual by way of identifying an ISP subscriber by IP address. That doesn't mean that your front door is not going to me smashed in at dawn, all your computer gizmos taken away for months to be pored over, you hauled off in handcuffs in front of the now sleep disturbed neighbourhood and your name merrily publicised by the local rag as having been arrested on suspicion of said offence.

    That's game over - you're now bankrupt thanks to the legal costs of clearing your name, your reputation is dirt both locally and nationally, can't get a decent job because the HR drones that google you are too vapid to click beyond the initial publicity BS that is hanging around like faded Christmas decorations in June. That's it. You're done and you're probably going to die under a railway arch somewhere.

    For what? Freedom.

    I do get the sentiment and motivation, I really do - but the EFF need to do better - integrate that roaming wireless freebie wifi offering with a TOR stack or some other means to get it the hell off being traced back to my IP. Perhaps if the EFF came forward and posted a commitment to fund good legal defence and reputation repair for those running their firmware - where ever they may be - then it would be viable. As it stands, it's a dead duck. Well if a dead duck could stand that is :D

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Just - no

      You are forgetting the right to be forgotten... Oh, wait, Google will argue it is in the public interest that you were hauled off in the middle of the night page 1 headline, but they don't need to rank the page 15 1cm article that says you were found not guilty above the false allegations.

  5. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    Free WiFi

    As a user, you have no idea who is slurping your data. As a donor, you have no idea what your freeloaders are up to on your connection. Think I'll sit this one out.

  6. Neil Alexander

    What isn't clear from this article is whether the EFF are encouraging people to open their wireless networks and allow people access to the Internet using your subscriber IP address (regardless of whether on a separate VLAN to your own devices on the LAN side), or whether that secondary VLAN stretches right the way out into the subscriber network providing guests with a different subscriber IP (like BT FON does).

    If the former, then they have got to be mad. At least a large network like BT have provided the capability to easily provide the latter, but a lot of ISPs won't.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would never advise anyone to do this for the same reason that I would never advise anyone to run a tor exit node. They're both lovely egalitarian ideas, and there *might* be a defence strong enough to raise a reasonable doubt in court, but the nightmare of being arrested for something truly horrible, with only a letter saying 'it might not have been me' to protect me, will always stop me from doing this.

    I work with children, and the merest sniff of suspicion that I'm doing bad stuff online would mean game over forever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It is a chicken-and-egg situation. While not many people allow open access (or run Tor exit nodes), it is dangerous to do so. If, on the other hand, a very significant number of people did so, it would become much less dangerous.

      This does appeal as a way for those of us who object to the level of control the state wants to exercise over our Internet access to fight back. But then the worry comes in.

      I do wonder whether a more effective (although much more illegal) way to get the necessary volume is to encourage people to leave little plug-computers configured as Tor exit nodes, everywhere where they can get network access. I could imagine that a plug computer, with a sticker on it saying "Do not unplug", would be left untouched in many cafes, workplaces, dentists, colleges, hotels, bus stations, etc. for quite a long time.

  8. The BigYin


    The state could just make the operator responsible for all activity on their network. I think that may already be the case in Germany.

    I run segregated guest network on my home router already using DD-WRT. I haven't applied any bandwidth limits as you need to know the password (QR code on the side of the router) and it was a bit of an arse to set-up; but it can be done. If this project makes it easier, then great.

    What I'd like to see is something akin to a "Citizen mesh network". Won't solve every problem and would need significant density to be workable.

    Neither solve the issue of someone abusing your network, then you having your door kicked-in and all computers seized (not to be returned for years). If that happened to me, I'd be fired in an instant.

  9. Shannon Jacobs

    Where's the financial model? TANSTAAFL

    I like the idea, but I spent some time on the OWM website, and the current implementation is not seriously flawed. More like MASSIVELY flawed. The technology is actually kind of clever, but only in an narrow and ignorant way.

    There are some solutions that could make this work, but the fundamental problem is always the money. In brief, if you offer to give away something of any conceivable value, you can rest assured that it will be abused. It's one of those two out of three jokes. You can have accountability, privacy, and minimal investment (approximately "free" in the economic sense), but NOT all three at the same time. I could go into quite a bit of detail in the analysis, but since there is no evidence of such deep thinking on the OWM website and since this is basically a comment on what that website says, I'll skip it. If someone involved in the project wants to discuss the problems and more importantly, some SOLUTIONS, then feel free to drop me a line.

    Overall I think the EFF was a good idea, but they are just too confused. Feeling charitable and based on my study of other languages, I'd be willing to say that it comes from the essential confusion in English about "free", "freedom", and related words, but since the EFF is supposed to be a pack of lawyers, that discussion would be like the opposite of trying to teach your grandma how to suck eggs.

    I really wouldn't mind if you mooch off my Internet connection, but only as long as you are a nice person. As OWM stands now, it's just an invitation to not-nice persons to do not-nice things.

    Freedom is about meaningful and unconstrained choice. Not beer.

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