Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hacking an unencrypted connection?

Once upon a time, the word "hacker" was meant to indicate a programmer capable of neat programming tricks that earned the admiration of his peers. (Read Steven Levy's book Hackers for a chronicle of that time, which ended in the early 1980s.)

Over the years, the word mutated to mean "someone who breaks into other people's computers." However, there was still a connotation of skill in the term.

Now, apparently, the word means "someone who borrows someone else's open wireless connection." And this, according to the Gujarat police, is not easy to do: they suspect a "techie", a Wipro engineer of having done it.

To recapitulate this story: an e-mail sent before the bomb blasts in Ahmedabad was sent from an IP address traced to a block of flats where an American, Ken Haywood, lived. The building had wireless internet, unencrypted. You could argue this is foolish, but it is not illegal. The police nonetheless have been making Haywood's life difficult (no word about the other residents of the building complex). At the same time, they think a Wipro "techie" could have "hacked" the connection.

Here's a news flash for our police and our equally moronic media: ANYONE with a laptop within a few tens of metres from the building in question could have used the internet connection, if it was unencrypted. It is not even clear that it is illegal to do so.

(Most internet connections that are encrypted use a discredited scheme called WEP, which can be broken in minutes. I think Haywood should consider himself lucky that his wireless connection did not use WEP. The police would have been totally convinced that he was the terrorist mastermind, since obviously nobody in the world could have "hacked" his connection: after all, it takes a Wipro "techie" to "hack" an unencrypted wireless connection.)

Now, it seems, Haywood has fled these morons and this country. Good for him. Good for the immigration authorities in Delhi for letting him through.


km said...

That old cliche involving Sherlock and shit come to mind.

Madhava said...

WIPRO Techie can do anything, Poor Software engineer ... God shud save him...Can He?