Browser Beware: Wi-Fi Users Sign Over First-Born Children

In order to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot in a London café, six Internet users unwittingly agreed to give up their parental rights

2 min read
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Photo: Jonas Van Remoortere/Getty Images

The results of a social experiment in London suggest that on-the-go Internet users are not being as careful as they should be when connecting to unfamiliar networks. In order to connect to a rigged Wi-Fi network set up by mobile security firm F-Secure, six users agreed to sign over their first born children to the company.

In the experiment, F-Secure set up a “poisoned” Wi-Fi hotspot on a table in Café Brera, a busy coffee shop in London’s Canada Square. To connect to the Wi-Fi network, which the company cobbled together from US $200 worth of parts that included a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, a battery pack, and some rubber bands, users needed to agree to a specially constructed terms and conditions page. Those terms—which, again, six people agreed to—included the following notice: “In using this service, you agree to relinquish your first born child to F-Secure, as and when the company requires it. In the event that no children are produced, your most beloved pet will be taken instead. The terms of this agreement stand for eternity.”

In an accompanying experiment, F-Secure set up the same hotspot at Broad Sanctuary, a public space not far from the houses of parliament. This time, they were testing to see how many people would log on to a public Wi-Fi network with no idea who it was being run by. The answer: kind of a lot. According to a report by the company, 33 devices connected to the Wi-Fi hotspot in just a half hour of operation. From those connections, F-Secure’s rigged hotspot gathered 32 MB of Internet traffic such as Web searches and e-mails sent by passersby. You can watch video of both experiments on F-Secure’s blog.

As for the dozens of folks who shared their information over F-Secure’s cobbled together hotspot, they don’t need to worry about the security of their data this time. “We have not logged any user information,” a spokesperson for the company said in a blog post, “and during the experiment a lawyer supervised all our activities to avoid breaching any laws.”

Presumably, F-Secure does not intend to enforce the clause assigning them custody of users’ children, either.

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The Cellular Industry’s Clash Over the Movement to Remake Networks

The wireless industry is divided on Open RAN’s goal to make network components interoperable

13 min read
Photo: George Frey/AFP/Getty Images

We've all been told that 5G wireless is going to deliver amazing capabilities and services. But it won't come cheap. When all is said and done, 5G will cost almost US $1 trillion to deploy over the next half decade. That enormous expense will be borne mostly by network operators, companies like AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and dozens more around the world that provide cellular service to their customers. Facing such an immense cost, these operators asked a very reasonable question: How can we make this cheaper and more flexible?

Their answer: Make it possible to mix and match network components from different companies, with the goal of fostering more competition and driving down prices. At the same time, they sparked a schism within the industry over how wireless networks should be built. Their opponents—and sometimes begrudging partners—are the handful of telecom-equipment vendors capable of providing the hardware the network operators have been buying and deploying for years.

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