You may have seen or read about the report about a Sarasota, Florida man who had an unexpected visit from the FBI in February of this year. The FBI was investigating the man for the illegal distribution of child pornography that was being distributed from the man’s IP address. During the course of the investigation, these facts about the case eventually surfaced, clearing the man of charges.

First there was the fact that the person whose IP address was being used lived on the 12th floor of a condominium building, which happened to face a marina located below the building. The wireless router owner assumed that his signal would not reach over 400 feet away, thus saw no need to password protect his system. In addition, the condominium unit was comprised of older retirees and he thought he had nothing to fear since he doubted that his neighbors would steal his signal.

The FBI placed a trap on his system and discovered someone stealing the signal from a boat docked in the marina. A subsequent search located the culprit and found thousands of pornographic photographs in the suspect’s possession and an arrest was made.

This story brought to light the necessity for securing one’s home router from intruders. Besides people being able to grab your signal at no charge, there is also the problem of slowing down your own network capabilities. As an example, if someone were on your network streaming a video to their system, your broadband connection would slow down. For those of us who use a cabled broadband connection, we know when others on the block are grabbing bandwidth since the Internet appears sluggish.

One of the key ingredients to secure your system properly is to use a password called a ‘key’ to secure your system. Use a key that would be difficult for someone to guess. I use an old phone number including area code for one reason: I can remember what the secret key is.

No matter what type of password you use, the important thing is that you use one and secure your network from outsiders. Having an unsecured network can only lead to problems like the gentleman in Florida painfully learned.