Actually, wi-fi has existed in Italy for quite a number of years, only using free public wi-fi services has never been simple, in that an ID document had to be produced before you could hook up to and use a wi-fi service. Unsurprisingly, requiring people to show identity documents made it difficult for free-wi-fi services to take hold. This is all about to change.
From the first of January 2011, there will no longer be any requirement for users to produce ID documents, probably.
Why “probably”? Because certain people in Italy are worried about the security implications of granting everyone unhindered access to wi-fi networks throughout Italy. Italy’s anti-mafia organisation is particularly concerned, as it believes free-wi-fi will make it much harder to track and block the activities of paedophiles, terrorists and Italy’s semi-NGOs – the mafia. Italy’s organised crime gangs will be able to exploit free wi-fi services to coordinate their operations and, as I understand it, could use internet telephony services such as Skype to make telephone calls which are more difficult to monitor.
Still, despite the worries, countries such as the USA and the UK have offered free access to free wifi services for quite a number of years, and security professionals don’t seem to have been kicking up too much of a fuss about this. However, cyber-crime does appear to be a growing problem in the USA – as is demonstrated by this FBI report: 2009 IC3 Annual Report, which states that internet crime levels in 2009 were up 20% on 2008 levels.
Part of the problem is likely to be poorly set up public wifi systems. Badly set up wifi systems can be a real liability for shops and restaurants, as is evidenced clearly by this article: How Free-Wifi Can Shut Down a Restaurant. The worry highlighted in the article is not so much criminals using internet telephony to set up drug and arms deals, so much as high-tech criminal gangs gaining access to information transmitted over the internet, such as credit card details, which can then be used to commit crimes, such as fraud.
What does this mean for the liberalisation of wi-fi in Italy? Basically, expect cyber-crime levels in Italy to increase significantly in 2011. Unless, wi-fi networks are set up correctly.
Set Up is Easy
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
It is very easy to set up a free-wi-fi service. You just buy a router, run a CD, plug in a cable or two, and everybody can enjoy your free-wi-fi service. Great! Only if you do not know what you are doing; setting up wi-fi systems correctly, firewalls and all, is not an easy task – I know, I’ve done it (and I’m not too good at it); you can literally leave yourself wide open to illicit usage of your wi-fi connection – up to and including letting people hook up and grab information relating to ATM and credit cards, if you own a restaurant, for example.
Free Wi-fi in Italy
For legitimate users, such as people on vacation in Italy, or those doing business in the peninsula, this relaxation in Italy’s wi-fi laws will be a boon.
On the other hand, for Italy’s law enforcement and anti-mafia bodies, free access to wifi connections in Italy might prove to be a substantial headache. Has Italy’s government earmarked resources law enforcement bodies can use to fight a significant increase in cyber-crime in Italy? This is not clear, and the worries expressed by Italy’s anti-mafia body indicate that the liberalisation of wifi in Italy has not been well thought through.
Incidentally, a free wi-fi service in Italy which I know of, and which you are not required to produce an ID document before connecting, is that of the MacDonald’s hamburger restaurant chain.
Wi-Fi logo owned by Wi-Fi Alliance