Having a WiFi router at home can be convenient, but increasingly hackers use some WiFi setups to drain bank accounts, or make people unwilling partners of pedophiles downloading pornography.
The FBI special agent for cyber crime said most pedophiles know if they download offensive images on their own internet hookup, they will get caught so they are looking for someone else's WiFi connection.
Police increasingly find pedophiles hacking their way onto the internet to download child pornography from unsecured WiFi sites.
"Anonymity of the internet is a cyber criminal's best friend, so they're going to try to find someone else's network to get on," explainedSpecial Agent Brian Herrick of the FBI Cyber Crime Task Force.
Newswatch 16 tested WiFi at a condo in Drums where its owner unlocked password protection.
Anyone could be right outside the home, get a WiFi signal and surf the net.
One hundred fifty feet away, a WiFi signal could still be found.
"It's akin to leaving your front door unlocked, letting someone come in, sit down on your couch, plug into your network and do whatever they want to do on the internet," Herrick added.
He said like pedophiles, identity thieves increasingly lurk outside of places like coffee shops offering free WiFi.
At downtown Scranton's Northern Lights Coffee Shop, student Andrew Lunney studies and surfs the net. "You have your password for your Facebook and for your Gmail account, so I definitely am at fault for using the same password for multiple websites," Lunney said.
"I was about to check my email account, and I was about to check my Facebook," said Kyle Mervau. "They have the same password."
The same password.
The FBI claims when we simplify our lives using one password for many sites we're vulnerable to identity crooks stealing that password to unlock our bank accounts.
"You have to make sure there is not somebody else in the area, what we call sniffing the traffic, listening to the wireless signal go through the air at that coffee shop or at that a retailer and then recording that traffic and potentially getting your passwords," Herrick said.
A recent online video called Scranton Wardriving showed a hacker driving through our area finding open WiFi signals and passwords.
The FBI's Herrick warns that in public areas don't go to sites like bank accounts, even Facebook, where a lurking sniffer can get your password and, he added, when we protect passwords at home WiFi accounts thieves leave.
"They're probably going to go on to another neighbor or somewhere else where they think they can get some free open wide open wireless access," said Herrick.
Some businesses offering free WiFi give customers a special password as an added layer of protection.
Agent Herrick said password protection keeps offensive images from passing through your system and, he added, it just might save you an embarrassing knock on the door from law enforcement officers tracking down pornographers and identity thieves.