We have previously reported that police and law enforcement agencies carefully monitor internet activity in order to bust sex crimes. Over the last few years, Wisconsin authorities have prosecuted hundreds of cases of computer sex crimes, including possession of child pornography and sexual solicitation of a minor using the internet.
In recent months, however, innocent people have found themselves facing serious charges of computer sex crimes because of internet activity which was traced back to their Internet Protocol (IP) address. Their unsecured Wi-Fi connection allowed others to commit illegal activity using their internet service.
One of the most recent and most shocking examples occurred to a man in New York. He was awakened early one morning in March to the sound of his back door being kicked in. He immediately saw seven Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with assault weapons trained on him.
He was essentially thrown down the staircase in an effort to subdue him and suffered cuts and bruises. Even though the man did not know why he was being arrested, he had to endure insults from the agents who called him a "pedophile" and a "pornographer."
He maintained his claim of innocence, but authorities seized his computer and his family's iPads and iPhones. It took authorities three days to determine that the man's unsecured wireless router had been used by a neighbor to download child pornography.
Unfortunately, this is a cautionary tale with the message that everyone should password protect their internet connections. This homeowner was innocent of all charges, but that did not stop authorities from using excessive force to detain and humiliate him.
When similar situations happen elsewhere, the registered user at the IP address often looks like a suspect whether he is guilty or not. So let this be a lesson: in order to avoid false charges for internet sex crimes, it is important to secure your Wi-Fi connection.
Source: pennlive.com, "Unsecured Wi-Fi can lure criminals, cause trouble for internet subscribers," Associated Press, 25 April 2011