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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.

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