Wifi map of city to fight hackers

Security expert James Lyne, centre, joins police officers Richard Hooper, left, and Neil Wilson to scan for unsecured networks in the Capital. Picture: Gareth Easton

Security expert James Lyne, centre, joins police officers Richard Hooper, left, and Neil Wilson to scan for unsecured networks in the Capital. Picture: Gareth Easton

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A FIFTH of wireless internet networks in the Capital are at risk of being hacked by cyber-criminals because of non-existent or inadequate protection, new figures suggest.

The probe by “war-biking” police and online security experts found 660 of 3092 detected networks in the city centre were either open or presented minimal resistance to a rogue hacker determined to break into them.

For the first time, the threat posed to Edinburgh homes, businesses and public institutions has been mapped as efforts to counter cyber-crime are stepped up.

Police and digital technology specialists produced the map after travelling through Corstorphine into the city centre, north to Stockbridge and south to Brunstfield, armed with scanning and tracking technology to identify weak networks.

And leaders at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), which spearheaded the investigation, warned that thousands of firms had inadequate online security, with many using completely open systems. They said the need to alert the public was greater than ever, as the number of viruses and other digital weapons used to steal money, passwords and private information continues to soar.

James Lyne, director of technology strategy at global IT security giant Sophos, which helped produce the map, said: “It’s quite staggering how vast the threat now is. We’re seeing in excess of 250,000 new viruses every day, and about 30,000 new websites getting infected and attacked every 
single day as well.”

Undertaken by Sophos and the SBRC, the Edinburgh project is a national first which experts said would measure the danger currently posed to 
wifi-using residents and firms by cyber-hackers.

With broadband companies already lining up to bring free wifi to parks, public buildings and other heavily populated parts of the Capital, Mr Lyne said it was crucial that individuals and organisations made an effort to ensure their 
internet access was secure.

He said: “We don’t want to inspire panic, and people should continue to use wireless networks. But everyone needs to be aware of the risks.

“The key is to take some small steps to protect yourself.”

He added that using the new WPA2 security certification programme, virtual private networks (VPNs) when travelling and extended passwords were simple measures that would help minimise online vulnerability. “There are lots of great tips online – the important thing is to know, to go and look and to care,” he said.

The new project was hailed by police and SBRC leaders.

Mandy Haeburn-Little, SBRC director, said: “Whether you are a small cafe, gym or a larger corporate, operating an insecure wifi network you leave yourself open to criminality.

“It’s easy to make your wifi network more secure by ensuring that it’s password protected, that you are using a firewall and that you change any default settings.”

Detective Inspector Eamonn Keane, of Police Scotland’s e-crime division, said: “We’re trying to send a preventative message. We want to encourage people to apply good IT hygiene.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com