More people than ever have internet access inside their homes or in the palm of their hand. But is that connection safe? If you skipped the security steps on your wireless network, or didn't change the password, it could be like leaving the door to your home wide open, and criminals out their just waiting to take advantage.
It's your connection to the world from the comfort of your sofa, but are you doing all you can to protect it? We hit the streets with Dougherty County Police to find out, and didn't have to go far to find a wireless internet connection.
"See it just popped up again, see one just popped up telling me..." said DCP Lt. Tom Jackson.
In a block with about a two dozen homes, we found nearly a dozen networks, and ONLY half of them were password protected, leaving them open for anyone to use, including us.
"Alright we just connected to that wireless network right there, we received an IP address, we're connected now," said Jackson.
A couple of clicks and we were online, no password needed. "I could sit right where I am right now and one of these houses surrounding us right now, of course we don't know which one, all we know is what they're calling their network and they're calling it 4133," Jackson said.
While we weren't up to anything illegal computer experts know that isn't always the case.
"If someone who is looking to hide their own identity and they go through your computer and your IP address, they can send out SPAM, they can traffic in child pornography, they can do credit card scams and they use your computer as a gateway to mask their own identity," said Christy Goodwin, Albany Computers Owner.
We found some neighbors weren't easily accessible, like Kitty Ashley's.
Was she surprised? "Nope I'm not, we protect it with a password," she said.
In fact the Ashley's, don't give out their password even to friends and they chose an uncommon password. "Even students friends of my son's-- we punch in the password for them we don't say the password."
Computer experts say protecting yourself is easy, most wireless routers today, include security protection as you're setting it up.
"It will walk you through the process, there should be a quick set up guide to walk you through that process if not your internet provider should be able to assist you over the phone in setting that up," said Christy Goodwin.
Keeping your connection secure and protected from criminals who could be looking for your personal information like a credit card or to turn your webcam on, watching you without your knowledge.
"Unfortunately it's a crime that's only going to escalate," Jackson says.
Which is why taking the time to set a password could mean the difference between smooth sailing on the world wide web and a visit from police.
"We pay for the service and its just not right for other people to use it," said Kitty Ashley.
without your permission, leaving you open to Wi-Fi dangers if your don't take the step to protect yourself.
Police say no two machines have the same MAC address which makes it possible for police to figure out if your internet is being accessed by another machine other than your own.
Police say you can also set your security profile to limit access to only the MAC addresses you provide.