A couple of Vodafone subscribers were unpleasantly surprised earlier this year when police arrived at their homes, accusing them of posting pictures of child abuse on the internet. Yet both claim their innocence. It appears that a malicious individual hacked into their Wi-Fi router to use their IP address.
Kate and Matthew (whose names have been changed) will long remember that January morning. That day, the police come knocking on their door and accuses them of having committed a particularly serious crime. ” They took everything: our desktop, our two laptops, our cellphones, a laptop I had borrowed, and even some old cellphones lying around in the drawers. “Kate says. And for good reason: at this point, the police are convinced that the couple is involved in a child pornography case.
According to the latter, four photos showing abused children were posted a year ago. from their IP address. Quickly, Kate and Matthew proclaim their innocence. But nothing helped, and the investigation would go on for several months, before the police finally dropped the charges. It is then that they realize that the most plausible explanation is that they are made hack their Wi-Fi router, whose preconfigured password they never changed. “There was already a password, so we plugged it in and didn’t touch anything”.
On the same topic: WPA, WPA2, WPA3 – how to know your type of Wi-Fi security
Child’s Play for the Attacker
It was this error that allowed the hacker to infiltrate the network of his victims. That would only have him very little time, according to Ken Muro, security consultant at Pen Test Partners. “First of all, a hacker should crack the Wi-Fi password – and if it’s no different than the one on the sticker on the side of the router, and the router has more than one year or two, it will only take a few minutes to do so ”, he explains. An operation which can indeed be very easy, knowing that half of Wi-Fi routers have a serious security flaw.
“Second, to do something particularly sinister on the home network, the attacker will have to change the configuration of the router. To do this, you need your administrator password. Most people don’t even know the router has an administrator password, let alone change it from the one written on the side of the router. So I’m guessing what happened here is that the hacker cracked the Wi-Fi password and then changed the router configuration so that their illicit internet activities seem to be coming from the innocent party. . “
A slow descent into hell for the victims
For Kate and Matthew, the past few months have been a real obstacle course. The accusations that weighed on their heads have profoundly changed their daily lives, so that they still struggle to wash their name. Matthew was forced to present the facts to his boss so that the police could obtain the encryption key to his work computer. Investigators notified social services and the school where their children attend of the charges against them.
Kate lost her role as an assistant in the facility. Their children have since been allowed to return to class, but they still have not allowed to enter. They can hardly drop their children there. Their mental health has thus seriously deteriorated. Matthew was placed under sick leave. “What hit me was the uncertainty. The more weeks went by, the more anxious I got “, he says.“It was months of hell. And during that time, we both had suicidal thoughts ”, says Kate.