Free Wi-Fi might seem like the best idea in the universe, but without the proper safeguards, there can be some unlikely consequences – such as the interesting piece of modern folklore that has recently unfolded in London.
As unwitting participants in a social experiment, six members of the public agreed to give up their firstborn child in exchange for free internet usage.
Multiple Wi-Fi hotspots were set up in various areas of the city, with a so-called ‘Herod Clause’, attached to the terms and conditions, which agreed to offer up users’ children to Finnish company F-Secure ‘for the duration of eternity’.
Placed in areas with high-internet traffic, unwary users proved easily ensnared. When the Terms and Conditions were later removed, 33 people attempted to connect to the unsecure Wi-Fi in just half an hour.
This experiment was arranged by the Cyber Security Research Institute, to investigate the various risks unregulated Wi-Fi hotspots pose to the unwary public.
The sponsor company opted to be a good sport about their new chattels, confirming in an official report that they would not on this occasion be claiming the children, as despite the binding nature of the contract, the contractual exchange of children is frowned upon in law.
This unusual event, humorous though it is, has important implications. Aside from revealing the naïve willingness of the general public to blindly click and connect, the experiment also raises some significant concerns about internet safety. Personal data – details, passwords and even your location – can potentially be made available to hackers through unsecured network connections.
The Cyber Security Research Institute is now calling for more information and education to be made available to the public about how Wi-Fi works, in order to change the present culture of instant-access and assumed invulnerability of personal devices. It is recommended that you turn off automatic Wi-Fi connection when out in public.
[Helen Murray – @HelenVMurray]