Parents agreed to give up their children in exchange for free Wi-Fi in a prank experiment conducted by security firm F-Secure in London.
The experiment was designed to highlight the trust consumers place in public hotspots, and managed to get, in addition to the hapless offspring of Wi-Fi hungry Londoners, their passwords, credit card details and user names, The Independent reports.
The experiment utilized a standard hotspot in London’s Canary Wharf neighborhood, but required potential users to agree to the security firm’s terms and conditions. In half an hour, 33 Londoners tried to use the hotspot, and 18 percent of them agreed to “render up their eldest child for the duration of eternity.” Canary Wharf is London’s downtown center of international business.
F-Secure has disabled the network and has stated that it will not try to enforce the “Herod Clause.” Security adviser Sean Sullivan explained the purpose of the experiment: “Free, open Wi-Fi is unsecure.”
“It wasn’t designed for the 21st century and it’s leaking information about us to people that we don’t have any knowledge of an they’re collecting data on us that we’re not consenting to,” he continued.
Sullivan said that people are much more trusting of personal devices than public computers, but that this trust was misplaced. He likened publicly accessible Wi-Fi to “some computer sitting in a lobby somewhere,” and warned about the potentially dire consequences of trusting hotspots.
“At best, your device is only leaking information about you – at worst, your passwords are being spilled into a publicly accessible space, and it’s not just spilling details to those that control the network – anybody on the network can see your information.”
The security firm’s report, “Tainted Love: How Wi-Fi betrays us,” concluded that, “The problem is that people implicitly trust their technology and are not aware of the implications of that trust… In pursuit of free bandwidth, people are prepared to do anything as our experiment showed with its draconian terms and conditions.”
The report, which can be read here, has been officially endorsed by the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office.