Sunday, September 26, 2004

Wi-Fi and hostage takers

One little-publicised problem for the investigation of hostage-takings in Iraq may have been created by a lack of Internet security awareness among Western businesses operating in Baghdad. Although videos issued by the al-Zarqawi group tend to be uploaded to the websites they appear on at round about the same time of day - a regularity that on the face of it might offer valuable opportunities to investigators - so far, no-one has been able to trace the computer from which they were sent. Even if the site operator is speedily contacted and cooperative in providing the IP address used, this may only lead to a PC in a nameless cybercafe. If court action is needed to get the contents of the log, there is little hope of finding the culprit. You might have thought, though, given an idea of the time and the geographical area, that it might be possible to watch a fair number of cybercafes.

The new problem, though, wrecks it. I have been informed by a person with relevant skills that many of the Western firms still operating in Baghdad have set up wireless access points - some of them without configuring access control features like WEP keys, or leaving these set to default or easily guessed values. When this occurs in London, little harm is done except that warchalkers might leave a chalk mark on your building. Possibly the competition might interfere. If you have covered a chunk of central Baghdad with lovely free internet access, though, you have created the possibility that somebody might use your IP to post their latest hate-vid on the web. Investigation would lead to a dead end, especially as the killers could keep moving whilst they did the job.

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