A tangled web

Since it is the Halloween season, let’s start with a scary story. It’s about lightness and darkness, specifically the dark side of the Wi-Fi scene—those wireless hotspots where people can pick up free Internet access floating through the air, whether they’re at a coffee emporium or a public park. Here, we’re more concerned with how that access is grabbed by people when no one is looking.

If you read our cover story (“Adventures in Wi-Fi,”) you’ll see that Wi-Fi is very much imbued with community spirit on its light side. But, much like how the Internet developed, there is, of course, the other side.

Legal experts and their partners in law enforcement have spooky stories to tell about the possibilities of hackers launching a cyber attack on government computers and say the little devils will get away with it because Wi-Fi, by its wireless nature, is hard to track.

The scary part comes when a Wi-Fi user accidentally leaves open his business or corporate connection, and a hacker gets into the system but is untraceable. Talk about your Homeland Security nightmare scenario for paranoids to play up.

One tech writer also sees the potential for some nastiness, such as the fact that some Wi-Fi user could e-mail child pornography to every member of Congress from a car parked across the street from some nice person’s home, and soon the FBI would be at the resident’s door.

But freedom always comes with costs, and we don’t see any reason for our government to get twisted up about this until the drive-by cyber crime really starts happening.

A person we like to see get twisted up about government is Dan Perkins (a.k.a. Tom Tomorrow) whose work anchors our letters page. (See “This modern cartoonist.”) Our Becca Costello takes a behind-the-pen look at the man whose cartoons are featured in his new Great Big Book, which chronicles the presidential administrations from the first Bush to W. The dark side of that is how little the subject matter—Saddam, wars and economic failures—has changed in 13 years.