CYBER criminals could use the unsecured wireless networks of innocent Scots to download illegal child pornography, police have warned.
Police Scotland officers have warned internet users to protect themselves after an Edinburgh man found himself at the centre of a child pornography investigation when a paedophile used his wireless network from the street to download indecent images.
Although the innocent man was ruled out, Detective Superintendent Steve Wilson, head of e-Crime at the Specialist Crime Division, says this is an example of why internet users need to ensure their wifi is protected.
Now security experts have launched a bid to warn householders and businesses just how vulnerable their wifi networks are.
Det Supt Wilson said: “During an operation in 2009, where one of Scotland’s biggest paedophile rings was exposed, one Edinburgh man found himself under suspicion of downloading indecent images.
“What had actually happened is his internet connection was insecure and one paedophile had accessed it from the street.
“Our internet forensic guys had ruled it out pretty quickly, but this man still found himself in an extremely uncomfortable situation and was under suspicion.”
He continued: “People with no passwords on their wifi do not know that it can be accessed sometimes from as far as 100 yards away.
“Someone could sit outside, picking up your signal and using your network to download illegal images or commit criminal acts online.
“Because each router has its own IP address, police could trace it back to you and you would be the one getting the knock on the door from the police.”
Dodgy connections can also lead to criminals breaking into devices of homes and businesses with potentially harmful consequences.
But now a new initiative has been launched in Edinburgh which aims to identify the level of unprotected wifi in the capital.
A top security expert, James Lyne, will be mounting his ‘warbike’ and will patrol various city centre streets seeking unsecured wifi.
The specially modified bicycle is equipped with scanning technology which will pick up unsecure or poorly protected connections.
Mr Lyne, the director of the IT security company, Sophos, said: “If you are a small business or a consumer and your network is wide open, anyone can connect to your network.
“Once they have their foot in the digital door they can not only piggyback your network but also potentially launch attacks on your personal data.
“But by following a few simple rules and using the latest wi-fi security systems, you can significantly reduce the risks.”
The pilot project is taking place for the first time in Scotland in conjunction with the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC).
SBRC believe that thousands of Scottish businesses have inadequate, outdated and poor internet security which can be hacked in minutes.
Mandy Haeburn-Little, Director of the SBRC, said: “One in three people in the UK was a victim of e-Crime in 2012 and one of the most common risks faced by businesses is poor IT security which potentially allows criminals to raid servers, steal identities and infiltrate bank accounts.”
Online child pornography has prompted calls for internet giants such as Google and Yahoo to ban the indecent images.
Prime Minister David Cameron last month accused the internet giants of making money from circulating images and videos around the internet.
The NSPCC revealed last year that one in 20 children had been sexually abused.