Open Wireless Offers Novel Way to Increase Anonymity

by Tracy Knauer •

Could opening your wireless router to strangers increase your privacy? That’s what the Open Wireless Movement says to encourage people to share their wifi connections with others.

The Open Wireless Movement’s goal is to increase Internet access by providing open wireless networks everywhere. Instead of requiring WEP or WPA passwords to connect to wifi networks, people could simply log in.

So, how does that increase the privacy of the person who owns the router? Because allowing multiple people to connect anonymously makes it impossible for authorities to trace Internet activity on the router’s IP address to any individual.

“The false notion that an IP address could be used as a sole identifier” would finally become “a thing of the past, creating a privacy-enhancing norm of shared networks,” according to the project.

Of course, it might seem risky in other ways to allow anyone onto your network. If you let other people onto your home router by simply removing the password, you would likely make it much easier for third parties to get behind your firewall or monitor your Internet traffic. They could also use up all of your bandwidth, making your connection slow.

The Open Wireless Movement is aware of those issues. To address them, it launched a special wireless firmware in summer 2014 that users can install on their routers. The Open Wireless firmware replaces the commercial operating systems that power routers by default.

The firmware provides security features that let you share your connection without compromising your privacy. It also allows you to throttle the bandwidth available to third parties so that they do not hog your entire connection. The firmware is based on the open source OpenWRT platform.

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