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Wireless Networking Encryption Security

Italy Quake Rescuers Ask Locals To Unlock Their Wi-Fi (bbc.com) 140

Rescue teams searching for earthquake survivors in central Italy have asked locals to unlock their Wifi passwords. The Italian Red Cross says residents' home networks can assist with communications during the search for survivors, reports BBC. From the report: On Wednesday a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy and killed more than 240 people. More than 4,300 rescuers are looking for survivors believed to still be trapped in the rubble. On Twitter, the Italian Red Cross posted a step-by-step guide which explains how local residents can switch off their Wifi network encryption. Similar requests have been made by the National Geological Association and Lazio Region. A security expert has warned that removing encryption from a home Wifi network carries its own risks, but added that those concerns are trivial in the context of the rescue operation.
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Italy Quake Rescuers Ask Locals To Unlock Their Wi-Fi

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday August 25, 2016 @04:43PM (#52771451) Journal
    This sort of reckless openness in communications sends the message that so called 'disasters' are a free-for-all for pirates, child pornographers, and terrorists.

    Any right-thinking citizen would agree that a few unimportant people staying buried in rubble is a small price to pay to secure the internet against intellectual property theft and anonymous communication by evildoers.
    • If you need access to everyone's internet devices in a rescue operation you are doing it wrong. I didn't jump to the nefarious extreme you did to come to a conclusion, I base my position on real life military rescue work.

      • 1.) Maybe this isn't obvious to you, but the military ops are generally way better equipped than the Red-Cross is, especially if you're coming from a US/UK background. You guys are bringing your own radio equipment in by helo if necessary with a nearly unlimited budget.

        2.) They don't really have the time at this moment to say 'oh we did this wrong' or 'we should have put more money aside'.

        • Digging through rubble can not effectively be performed without both hands operating tools. When WiFi can let people dig faster I'll might reconsider your perspective. That is the smallest of concerns however, and again your lack of knowledge with rescues is obvious..

          What I believe you were dickishly attempting to claim that certain non-operational issues, such as rescuer down time, can benefit from local's giving them access to their services. While that position has some merit one must consider that mo

          • "When WiFi can let people dig faster I'll might reconsider your perspective."

            Considering communication can allow you to call in more people to certain areas of the disaster, and not having said communication is a bottleneck to that. Point made, was entirely obvious and should have been even to the most cynical 'rescuer'.

            If you want dickish I can give dickish. Use your god damn brain and stop being an engineer for 15 minutes.

            If you want to argue governmental 'refund' policy on data caps go fucking nuts I gue

    • Right-wing thinking: "there is a disaster, let's help everyone' Left-wing thinking: "the government has to do it, why should I bother?". Meanwhile let's take advantage of the government aids to the the disaster. Luckily I am alright".
  • Trivial??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 25, 2016 @04:44PM (#52771459)

    And yet if something illegal happens on the WiFi, will the govt ignore it?

    This is a horrible idea, sorry. The govt should bring in WiFi hotspots, and not put locals at risk.

    • by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Thursday August 25, 2016 @05:22PM (#52771697) Homepage
      I do have to say I loved the old days, way way back in 2005, when people left their wifi unlocked as a matter of course, and if you needed a connection anywhere you happened to be, you could just open your laptop and grab any of the dozen open networks.

      Those good old days of cyberanarchistic freedom, gone forever now, I guess, but still fondly remembered.

    • Where I live you can buy a $15 portable wifi gadget that connects through a $1 sim card that is bought and loaded anonymously. Are you jelly?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And yet if something illegal happens on the WiFi, will the govt ignore it?

      ... it's a disaster area... get real. I'm sure hey couldn't care less about your illegal downloads at such moments.

      This is a horrible idea, sorry. The govt should bring in WiFi hotspots, and not put locals at risk.

      No it isn't. Europe has plenty of faults but it hasn't devolved yet into the US situation. Your worries about litigation are so out of proportion. No government can replace and provide all existing infrastructure
      • by ZeRu ( 1486391 )

        ... it's a disaster area... get real. I'm sure hey couldn't care less about your illegal downloads at such moments.

        They won't care right now, but things might change once everything settles. Even war crimes rarely get processed during wars, usually after them.
        Will I be held responsible if someone uses my open WiFi network to download child porn? Weirder stuff could've happened.

    • Re:Trivial??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by idji ( 984038 ) on Friday August 26, 2016 @02:45AM (#52773511)
      The citizens will have an open network up in minutes. The government will take days, while people die under rubble.
      • The government will take days to assemble the committee that tries to find out how to distribute the pork until there is lots of pork and very little wifi.

        It's Italy, after all.

    • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

      And yet if something illegal happens on the WiFi, will the govt ignore it?

      This is a horrible idea, sorry. The govt should bring in WiFi hotspots, and not put locals at risk.

      Considering the arbitrary and capricious (not to mention illogical and nearly insane) actions of the Italian court system a person would have to be totally stupid to assume the government wouldn't immediately turn around and throw someone in jail for a monkey-trial if something illegal happened on their open wi-fi.

      Heck, they threw geologists in jail for not predicting a quake right just a few years ago. Think the same group of italian government turds aren't sniffing around this quake?

    • Re:Trivial??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bfpierce ( 4312717 ) on Friday August 26, 2016 @09:01AM (#52774205)

      This is in the Italian country side up in the mountains currently in ruins, super difficult to get to even before an earth quake cut off most of the routes.

      Do you tin foil hat wearers actually think the 'criminals' are going to all of a sudden walk up there in droves when they can just as easily drive around Rome looking for unlocked wi-fi to do their 'terrible cyber crimes'?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All you'd have to do is prove that any illegal activity that crossed/originated from your network happened during the dates of the rescue and you've got the best excuse in the world to be let off the hook.

  • I'd do it, but then I'd advise people who want to assist in such a way to unplug all their computers, including turning off wifi on smartphones etc., and disconnecting NAS storage in the forum of a USB drive attached to a router.
    Although there's a concern for the security of the router itself.

    • I'd do it, but then I'd advise people who want to assist in such a way to unplug all their computers, including turning off wifi on smartphones etc., and disconnecting NAS storage in the forum of a USB drive attached to a router.
      Although there's a concern for the security of the router itself.

      Or have your AP publish a public SSID that only routes outside and a private one that routes inside. You then don't need to do anything special in the event of an earthquake other than avoiding falling rubble.

      If your AP doesn't do that, you might want to consider a different vendor.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe people have more important things to do than wanking about computer security after an earthquake happens?

  • Yes and No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Thursday August 25, 2016 @05:00PM (#52771567) Homepage

    Create a "guest access" account on the router and allow that? Absolutely! No problem with that at all, especially since I can log who connects.

    Remove all security and just turn my connection (and all liability in a nation not known for being especially scrupulous with it's accusations of wrong-doing) over to the whims of chaos?

    No.

    Sorry, but better to not expose myself to that kind of risk, than have to fight my way out of kangaroo court. [sciencemag.org]

    • Those who are using 802.11n can do that - use the guest SSID and turn it on. But those on a g/a/b should be wary.
    • Re: Yes and No (Score:2, Insightful)

      You are some asshole. Do you really think that the people in the region, and all the people flooding in to help, as well as those trapped under the rubble or being treated outdoors because the hospital is unsafe, are going to kill their devices battery by surfing kiddie porn or streaming movies? How many chargers do you think the shelters have?
      • Sorry, but if you are digging people out of rubble you don't do it with Wifi. The whole "we want wifi" is confusing to me, who has been part of numerous rescue operations before Wifi was an option. Bases? Sure! Maps? Sure! Tools to do the job? Sure! Communication? Sure! That last part is not WIFI, it's the frigging Government operated Telecoms in every country. WIFI? Maybe for movies, music and personal time after doing work. I'm okay with that, but that should not be done at the expense of loc

        • The article specifically says to aid in communication. If something like this happened where I live there are too many mountains for cell signals to be reliable. But on my hill with all my neighbors you could then get a signal enough to send some email to VoIPstyle texts.
          • Your cell signal is bad so you want the replace it with unreliable WiFi which may not even exist in the areas you are running rescue operations? Do you really believe that? How about FOBs with local broadcast abilities like we have used for the last, oh I don't know.. 60 years plus? Isn't that a more sensible solution which every reputable organization I'm aware of has?

            That claim about "needing" it for communication is bullshit. Stuff some in your nose and take a good long whiff, it's bullshit.

  • The tech [tradeshowinternet.com] already exists for just this sort of emergency. It's just being marketed for scheduled events rather than unscheduled disasters.

    We have the same communications failure backdrop at virtually every natural disaster.

  • But then, I've got a router that lets me set up guest access to the internet without providing access to my internal network.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I already do, I even have a roof top access point (UniFi Outdoor+) to help w/signal propagation.. ssid: openwireless.org

      its on its own vlan with a very restrictive set of firewall rules that only let you use opendns servers w/some basic content filtering..

      I am in a cellular deadspot due to a hill, one bar if your lucky.. no data.. most of my neighbors use it and none of em can get a connection strong enough to come close to impacting my internet speeds.. so I dont even bother throttling em.

      Its a resource I

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do the rescue teams not have radios? Or did some idiot think it'd be a great idea to handle relief efforts via a facebook page?!

    "So Jenson - How are we going to coordinate relief efforts with the power of the internet!"
    "Well during a disaster sir, the rescue teams will all be able to mark and track the areas they searched by clicking on this map on their smartphones! Also if they find somebody they can update the status and we can direct crews out there!"
    "Brilliant Jenson! Brilliant! But what if the po

  • It would be nice if home and small business WiFi could supplement the traditional role of ham radio in disasters. Does a safe disaster protocol exist that can be deployed in routers worldwide for emergency public use of nodes while keeping the owner safe from cyberattack? Routers might be equipped with physical switches that place them into Public Communications mode when needed, perhaps with entry of a PIN for security.

    Now consider that many disasters will involve loss of at least local power. Is there an

  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Thursday August 25, 2016 @05:39PM (#52771819) Homepage Journal

    Well, not all of them, but I'm sadly sure that some criminals will be willing to take advantage of the situation. Of course the most serious threat is that the extremely black-hat hackers will exploit the unlocked WiFi networks to pwn routers and linked computers for later abuse. In accord with Dan Ariely's research, the criminals will think they are being relatively nice guys by saving their major depredations until after the immediate emergency has been addressed.

    https://ello.co/shanen0/post/f... [ello.co] is a quasi-review of one of his books about dishonesty, even including an honest email exchange...

    However, I think it would be much better if we did it the other way around. Rather than maximizing the profits of the big Internet companies, we should always be configured to run as much of the infrastructure as possible on our own systems. In other words, WiFi routers would normally be configured for safe sharing, and handling emergencies would just be a natural extension of wireless communications that the big Internet companies are not controlling and profiting from.

    Punchline is that profit is not the primary driver of the bad design. It's all about controlling our communications. I think the primary driver for centralized control of the Internet is the governments. They WANT the rules and laws to work that way. If things got out of control, if the peasants were actually in charge of the Internet, how would they control the peasants? Real democracy scares them more than anything.

  • Why wouldn't you? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Thursday August 25, 2016 @05:40PM (#52771829)

    I mean seriously? Why wouldn't you? I've read a heap of the comments about how insane you would have to be and all the legal risk you would be at but we're not talking about leaving it permanently unsecured, we are talking about a short period of time during a national emergency where people around you are buried under collapsed buildings!!

    Christ I get it, you have you NAS full of your super sensitive material, well turn the fucking thing off then. This is slashdot ffs, are you seriously telling me that you don't have the capability to turn off a computer you don't want someone to access?

    People are dying, infrastructure has been damaged. Who knows what state their mobile network is in, perhaps it's not possible to bring in wifi hotspots.

    The chances that if all people unsecure their wifis that your connection will even get used is pretty small. The chances yours gets used by a malicious actor is vanishingly small. The chances that your open wifi saves a life is also tiny, however it might. So I just don't get why someone wouldn't be willing to take on a little, essentially insignificant, risk if it might save someone.

    If an earthquake or similar disaster happens near me, not only would I happily open my network, but I would be out there trying to physically help people, so I could just turn everything off for a couple of days as I'm not using it. Maybe I'm the strange one.

    • Honestly, the survivors are probably better off if you leave the wifi off. You're supposed to be digging, not posting selfies.
      • Having the wifi on does not require your presence.

        • I'm saying the people will get more rescuing done if checking their email and posting selfies is not an option.
          • by Maow ( 620678 )

            I'm saying the people will get more rescuing done if checking their email and posting selfies is not an option.

            Perhaps, for you, having WiFi means taking & posting selfies.

            For others it might be a way for a trapped person to ask for help and give their location, or a method for rescuers to be notified to rush to a certain location for an emergency beyond what they're currently working on (maybe a collapsed school or hospital) (maybe even leading to more rescues).

            There are many, many possibilities in an earthquake devastated area in which an internet connection can be handy - life-saving even.

            • Think it through, the best a buried person could do is send an email saying they're under rubble. We already know that. Wifi is more of a distraction than anything useful in this situation.
              • by Maow ( 620678 )

                Think it through, the best a buried person could do is send an email saying they're under rubble. We already know that. Wifi is more of a distraction than anything useful in this situation.

                We do not already know that. It might be known that there's a pile of rubble, but not that someone was inside, and not that they're alive.

                If they can say "I'm alive under the rubble at 123 Main Street", it can be hugely beneficial to their survival. Can then focus on which multi-tonne pile of rubble to start digging through.

                Or a group message via WhatsApp or something saying, "We've found 10 people in the basement of 321 Main Street - help us get them out ASAP" sent to rescuers.

                It may not be a high likeli

                • Keep thinking though. What are the chances of
                  * your battery being alive
                  * knowing your location
                  * posting your location to someone who can make a difference
                  * being distinguishable from the trolls who will post "I'm under the rubble!"

                  Any wifi data is worthless and a distraction. Still don't believe me? OK, As someone who has never responded to an emergency you seem to be an expert, but you're really an armchair quarterback compared to me.
                  • "knowing your location"

                    They're in their fucking vacation house, they know the fucking address.

                    And if you were actually someone who responds to emergencies, you should be plenty fucking aware that any small probability is a better chance than certain death. So you take the damn chance that ONE person has all those variables lined up and it works out for them.

                    Unless you're shit poor at your job anyways.

                    • Bollocks. You've no evidence that wifi helps first responders at all and you know it.
                    • What, you need a peer reviewed paper with analysis or something to point out the obvious? I can't point to any actual research on the subject other than being able to communicate with large dispersed teams quickly is more efficient than not being able to communicate quickly.

                      If the responders are asking for something they quite obviously feel that having said service will assist them in more efficiently doing their job. Since speed and efficiency are the ONLY factors in rescuing as many people as possible in

                  • by Maow ( 620678 )

                    Keep thinking though. What are the chances of

                    * your battery being alive

                    Greater than zero.

                    * knowing your location

                    The last building I entered before the earthquake, duh.

                    Any wifi data is worthless and a distraction.

                    It appears the experts - the actual rescuers - disagree with you.

                    Still don't believe me? OK, As someone who has never responded to an emergency you seem to be an expert,

                    I never claimed expertise, just noting that the real experts on the scene are asking for this.

                    but you're really an armchair quarterback compared to me.

                    Hilarious. Now you're claiming expertise and in conflict with what those on the scene are saying.

                    Who should I believe? It's a tough choice but internet armchair rescuer loses by a hair's breadth on this one.

                    *plonk*

    • Why bother? It has been more than 16 hours so, anyone buried under rubble is sitting and staring at a smart phone that ran out of batteries hours ago.

      • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Thursday August 25, 2016 @09:41PM (#52772941)

        Because just maybe it could save someone. Because the person buried under the rubble was playing pokemon go and carrying at 16000mah battery pack. Because maybe the person has been turning their phone on for 5 minutes then turning it off when they have no signal. Because maybe the emergency workers in you area might be able to use it to communicate back to base where as for what ever other reason they couldn't have.

      • My normal non smart phone battery will last for 4-5 days, and can connect to wi-fi, and send an email.

        This phone would last longer on it's battery than I would underneath rubble.

  • the quake was on wednesday and you think that there is a smartphone battery that still isn't dead? really?
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Sure. You can charge it from a car, backup generator, solar panel or even a hand cranked generator. I'm sure there are some that still have a charge.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We are not even 3 full decades into the internet being widely available and rescue groups have already lost basic skills. This has got to be a fucking joke.

    Use radios you fucking morons. The internet shouldn't be used for an emergency like this. The internet ultimately relies on physical cables buried underground, just like gas and electrical lines and is thus subject to down down and not be functional in a major catastrophe like this. Apparently the Red Cross in Italy is now being ran by millennials th

    • I do have to agree with this. I had actually let my license lapse and just recently renewed for this reason. In the recent Louisiana floods, there was a call for amateur radio ops to help out with comms b/c basic infrastructure had been literally washed away or overloaded. With the fit hits the shan, hams are more than willing to step up to the task.
    • by catprog ( 849688 )

      What radio?

      Random person on the street would not have a radio, but the chances of them having a wifi device is more then zero.

  • I was in Italy a few years ago, in a town in the south part of the main land, and helped a friend set up their national-telecom-provided Wifi router (which was surprisingly not difficult, even with not knowing the language, and no English-language option).

    What was surprising was that there was not only no option to set the access point open, there wasn't even a way of specifying a passphrase -- only a cryptic one chosen by the router could be used. Which explained why I never saw an open access point the e

  • IMHO, in the ideal situation, every WiFi access point should include by default a second SSID mapped to a VLAN that can allow complete traffic isolation between the personal network and the guest network. The guest network should be IEEE 802.11s-enabled [wikipedia.org] to allow roaming and mesh networking, and 802.11u [wikipedia.org] for interworking and authentication. In that way, emergency responders can have access to a network while protecting individual's privacy. Even nicer would be an emergency responder's network only available t

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