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September 29, 2010

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Officials seize illegal network cards to log off Wi-Fi thieves

THE Shanghai Radio Administration Bureau is teaming up with local police to crack down on illegal cards used by some residents to access their neighbors' wireless networks.

During a spot check on Qiujiang Road, famed for its shops selling electronic products, a total of 89 network cards were confiscated and four shops selling them shut down.

Jia Hongbao, deputy director of the bureau, said anyone who sold the cards faced fines ranging from 5,000 yuan (US$747) to 20,000 yuan, depending on the scale of their business.

Jia said the network cards, called Kawang (Network Card King), were modified WLAN cards (wireless local area network) that usually had higher power than normal ones so users could detect wireless networks in a radius of 4 to 5 kilometers.

The cards also allowed users to crack other residents' passwords so they could log on for free.

"At first, people were using the cards to gain free access to their neighbors' connections," said Jia. "But now we have found some people are using them for different crimes online."

These included the theft of personal information, eavesdropping on online chats and even accessing online bank accounts.

"Some criminals would even steal other residents' Internet Protocol (IP) addresses via the special network card," said an official surnamed Shan.

"They use the IP address to commit crimes online, such as sending spam or spreading viruses. When the police track down the IP address, they just find innocent residents."

Jia said the cards were also harmful to health. "Users will be easily affected by the cards' strong radiation due to their high power."

The high-power network cards are popular on some online stores.

One network card costs just 100 yuan to 500 yuan, while residents usually pay around 2,000 yuan a year for Internet access.

Officials with the radio administration said they would step up efforts to ban online sales.

A seller on Qilianshan Road S. said he stopped selling one of the network cards, not because he heard that the police were investigating, but because the card needed to be improved to have a more stable signal.

His cards cost 125 yuan and he also offers a brief course to every customer that could teach them to become rookie hackers in just a few minutes.


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