HOUSTON – It's a crime that begins in the street, but it ends inside your home. To be exact, it's an incredibly costly crime that ends inside your home computer.
"The biggest thing about this crime is that the criminal can steal your credit card numbers, your savings account numbers and your checking account numbers. They can wipe you out financially," said Brett Dearman, a digital detective with McCann Investigations of a cyber-security company located in Bellaire.
The crime is called Wi-Fi Jacking. It has also been called War Driving, and all thieves have to do is park outside your home, use the right software, and with a few clicks on a laptop, they can break into your home wireless network. But they can only do that if your Wi-Fi network is open and unprotected.
How dangerous is it?
Cyber security experts say leaving your home Wi-Fi wide open is just like giving the keys to your house to 100 thieves at the same time, you are completely open to attack.
The problem is a lot of people just don't pay attention to the details about their home computer systems, and don't even know if they have Wi-Fi protection or not.
We decided to find out how widespread the problem is.
To do that, we at Local 2 Investigates went War Driving with Dearman, on a mission to identify people in various neighborhoods with wide open Wi-Fi.
We traveled to three different Houston area neighborhoods, Bellaire, West University and southwest Houston, and within 30-seconds of hitting each area; we already found dozens of people with open home Wi-Fi.
"It's so easy to break in to these people's lives, they have no idea," Dearman said.
Of course we are not going to enter any of these Wi-Fi systems, or identify who owns them, our aim is just to warn people about the danger they are facing.
But it's not just the threat of being robbed by these Wi-Fi jackers. If they want to, Wi-Fi jackers can also take over your computer and use it to distribute and sell illegal drugs or child pornography.
What can you do to lock these Wi-Fi jackers out of your network?
It's very easy to do and you don't have to be a computer expert.
All you need to do is enable what's called WPA on your wireless router.
We have created a special online tutorial to show you exactly how to do that right here on our website.
Remember, protecting your home Wi-Fi takes only a few minutes, while leaving it wide open could wipe you out financially.