TalkTalk stages file-sharing wi-fi stunt

British ISP TalkTalk has staged a stunt aimed at proving to Lord Mandelson that his plans to cut-off file-sharers without due process is "naive". The company's stunt demonstrates how innocent parties could easily be disconnected for file-sharing done without their knowledge through a wireless Internet connection.

The company, which has long been a critic of government plans to cut off file-sharers, sent a security expert to an ordinary street in Middlesex. The expert then obtained access to 23 unsecured wireless connections on the street and downloaded music from two of the connections.

Residents had given prior permission to be hacked and the downloads were legal, but with so many unsecured wireless connections it demonstrates just how easily a wireless connection could be hijacked for illegal file-sharing. TalkTalk plans to offer advice to all of the residents on how to make their wi-fi networks secure.

TalkTalks director of strategy and regulation, Andrew Heaney, believes that due process of law must be maintained.

"The Mandelson scheme is every bit as wrong-headed as it is naive," he said, "The lack of presumption of innocence and the absence of judicial process combined with the prevalence of wi-fi hacking will result in innocent people being disconnected."

According to the BBC, several cases of users being wrongly accused of illegally sharing video games have been highlighted by magazine, Which? Computing.

However, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is confident that innocent people would not be caught out, due to its "robust" evidence gathering.

BPI spokesman Adam Liversage said, "The account holder would receive a notification in the first instance, which would represent an opportunity to discuss filesharing with others in the household and which would provide the account holder with the information and tools to help ensure that the account is not used illegally again."

"This information would extend to explaining to the account holder how they can secure their wireless router to ensure that it isn't accessed by unknown third parties," he added.

A statement from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that it would be important to ensure that there is an "independent and easy route of appeal at all stages in the process" and that they are currently envisaging a "tribunal system to which people would have recourse before any action was taken against them."

The government's decision on Lord Mandelson's controversial plan is due in November.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Man wins right to sell Windows 7 party pack on eBay

Next Story

Wifi standards creator pockets first royalties from industry

19 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

All levels of security are hackable, on my router I've hacked, WEP64/128 and WPA1/2.

With WPA1/2, key length only extends time necessary to gather key a little longer.


Regarding the law, we live in a dictatorship, so don't expect anything good to come along until we the people replace our current regime...

"The account holder would receive a notification in the first instance, which would represent an opportunity to discuss filesharing with others in the household and which would provide the account holder with the information and tools to help ensure that the account is not used illegally again."

Yeah, & that's going to solve everything. In fact, why don't they post that info & those tools to their web site? Why that would certainly put an end to all this nasty malware & hacking & other nonsense that occurs on the Internet. No need for Microsoft to worry about Windows' security any longer. All the security software developers can find something else to do. Me? Ill be having fun taking snapshots of all the pigs flying by! ;?P

i had a secure network at home, but the password was simple.......a few weeks later my usage went over 100GB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! had to reset the hub (cos those bad people changed the password)!


I just can't believe that they can even demand they disconnect them without a court order or conviction in a court of law.

And why do I always read "British Phonographic Industry" as "British Pornographic Industry"?

Using an unsecured connection isn't "hacking", it's using the connection as it was set up to allow you to do. Stupid BBC.

Hendrick said,
Agreed. Now, if he cracked their WEP Key, that'd be a different story.

Which should also be pointed out, is still possible; therefore, innocent people could still be caught up in this, despite the supposed warning letters, which will somehow tell people how to 'secure their wireless router to ensure that it isn't accessed by unknown third parties', even though all routers are different and not all people are tech savy enough to follow vauge non-specific instructions.

Just my 2c.

You two need to read the BBC article and watch the video.

If you watch the video, you'll see they're talking about cracking WEP protected computers which is hacking.

Also by definition gaining access via unsecured connections is hacking as you're accessing data without authorisation.

Sure you could say as the residents gave their permission in this experiment it's not hacking but in the real world it is.

There's a heck of a lot of users still using WEP. For one, the router O2 supplies comes setup with WEP out of the box - and the manual doesn't give any clear guidance for changing this to WPA (probably to save their support line some calls). And I guess there's alot of customers out there who don't know how to change it.

bmaher said,
There's a heck of a lot of users still using WEP. For one, the router O2 supplies comes setup with WEP out of the box - and the manual doesn't give any clear guidance for changing this to WPA (probably to save their support line some calls). And I guess there's alot of customers out there who don't know how to change it.

WPA and WPA2 is more susceptible to inference and weak signals. A lot of people can't get it to work because they don't know how to adjust their router to compensate, so they just give up.

testman said,
Using an unsecured connection isn't "hacking", it's using the connection as it was set up to allow you to do. Stupid BBC.


Actually unless you have the permission of the owner of the connection it is still an offence

I hope it gets the boot, but knowing this goverment it will get passed and in 2 years time we will find out lord mandelson got a bit fat wedge for getting it through :<