By Ward Lucas
DOUGLAS COUNTY - The Sheriff's Department says it's going to start
warning computer users that their networks may be vulnerable to
It may be one of the first law enforcement agencies in the country to
Wireless computer equipment and home computer networks are everywhere
these days. Almost all new computers sold are used by consumers to
network in one way or another to other computers.
However, that wireless capability may be making those computers
vulnerable to hackers.
"If someone is driving by on the street they could easily use your
internet access to commit a crime, whether it's fraudulent credit card
transactions or surfing child porn or something else," said Brian
Radamacher, a member of the Douglas County Sheriff's Special
Wireless computer equipment sends out signals that sometimes broadcast
for up to a mile.
Other computer users can home in on those signals and use them to
access the internet.
Radamacher says hackers can use stolen Internet access to make
fraudulent credit card purchases or bank transfers.
He also says hackers can upload or download such things as child
That activity would be completely invisible to the legitimate owner of
However, it could make innocent computer users vulnerable to having
their computers confiscated during police investigations.
"The unfortunate thing is when we go to issue the warrants or
something else you may end up getting your computer seized because of
it," said Radamacher. "A lot of times it can take months to get your
computer back after the processing."
The Sheriff's Department plans to equip several of its community
service and patrol cars with devices that detect unprotected computer
In cases where investigators can figure out who owns the networks,
they'll try to warn of potential security issues. They'll also drop
off brochures with instructions to computer users on how to password
protect their networks.
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