David, this is Big Brother, get the hell off my Wi-Fi!

One of the stops on my little travel junket last week was the University of Ballarat; where I was privileged enough to give a guest lecture on some of the new bits and bobs coming out of the Microsoft garage over the next 6212. My story is not unique, but it is my own...

It was approximately 10am when I passed the welcome sign on the border of Ballarat. I was slightly early, and decided to seek out a coffee shop where I could gather my notes, check my slides, and align my chi before heading out to the university for my lecture. As I parked near the main shopping strip, I was delighted to discover that the trade federation of Starbucks and Gloria Jeans had not pulled through Ballarat. Family owned and operated businesses bustled amongst the warm community, and many a smile I caught from welcoming strangers as I ambled down the mall. I found sanctitude in tall latte at a local cafe, and the accompanying shortbread left crumbs on my jumper, I didn't wipe them off.

Away from the madness of Melbourne, I was able to lose myself in old emails, well prepared PowerPoint slides, and the occasional wink from Mrs. Johanson who was enjoying a little more Irish than coffee a few tables down from mine. After I was finished, I paid my tab, thanked the quiet little shopping mall for its graciousness, and departed for the University.

Everything went well at my lecture, and as I left Ballarat I thought to myself, "Wow, what a wonderfully warm and peaceful place this was"...until my PDA made a blip, and my afternoon was turned upside down!

In my inbox, addressed to me, was an email from the CIO of a very large discount goods chain (they're known for selling goods of discarded quality); claiming I had attempted to connect to their wireless network in Ballarat, without authorisation, and that I should check my equipment to ensure this didn't happen again. Not only was the tone of the email passively aggressive, it was formatted in plain text! So many thoughts ran through my head, was Ballarat one big security honey pot contrived to capture promiscuous wireless users, was the coffee shop a front to capture unsuspecting users email addresses, was Mrs. Johanson after my body!!! Needless to say, once my hysteria waned, I was able to collect my thoughts and think about the kind of information that my wireless card is broadcasting for someone to be able to work out my email address and contact me...now I know how Sgt. Mibutu of the Angolan Interior Ministry of Defence was able to contact me so briskly regarding that spare billion USD he has lying around.

Comments (8)
  1. Sam says:

    You ‘forgot’ to mention how they concluded your mail adress from your wireless connect – care to share your newfound knowledge with us readers? 🙂

  2. Jim Wyatt says:

    You cannot just stop without letting us know how they did it.

  3. Tobin says:

    I like to tout a little phrase on my blog that I think is appropriate here: Freinds don’t let Freinds use Wireless. You are too open to being pharmed. Why would anyone voluntariliy take away physical security from their box?

  4. davidlem says:

    Right, how did they get my details….

    I wasn’t being obtuse my friends, I honestly don’t know how they got my email address, but my guess would be that at some point during the handshake between my wireless nic and the wap, my machine name/username/domain was sent across. My machine name is ausdavidlem, and if you google davidlem, you get my blog, etc. That’s the only way I can think of so far…

    Any other ideas on how they could have guessed it…?

  5. Emma Grant says:

    Someone at Starbucks must have heard you – I kid you not, one opened in Bridge Mall yesterday!

    Link (old): http://ballarat.yourguide.com.au/detail.asp?class=news&subclass=local&category=general%20news&story_id=400277&y=2005&m=6

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