Internet service theft is growing, though few offenders are caught.
That’s according to USA Today, which finds that tech-savvy thieves are increasingly tapping into other users’ paid Internet access through their home routers and cable modems. The problem has become so pervasive that the FCC has singled out such “IP hijacking” as a critical Internet security threat.
Reprogrammed routers resembling neighbors’ routers and cloned modems enabling free online access by using a paying customer’s identification credentials are just two of the tools utilized by thieves. Only a small percentage of the thousands of suspected Internet theft cases are investigated every year, due to a lack of resources and privacy laws under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
“Federal prosecutors are still finding high-profile cases,” writes Adam Sylvain in USA Today. “In March, a federal jury in Boston convicted Ryan Harris, an Oregon man, of making and selling Internet hijacking tools – including one called ‘Coax Thief.’ The product intercepted Internet traffic so users could access their neighbors’ cable modems and avoid paying the monthly service fees to an Internet provider.”
Because ISPs devote a limited amount of bandwidth to a neighborhood, such theft could result in slower Internet service for an entire neighborhood. Some industry observers suggest stricter enforcement by ISPs to prevent further theft.