Red Cross asks people to unlock Wi-Fi passwords following Italy earthquake

25 Aug 2016

The town of Amatrice following the recent Italian earthquake

Following the devastating earthquake in central Italy, the Red Cross is asking people living near the affected areas to disable their Wi-Fi passwords to allow better communications among rescuers and aid workers.

The Italy earthquake occurred at 3.36am local time on Wednesday, 24 August near the central Italian town of Norcia, and, just one day later, the surrounding area and many towns are now almost completely destroyed.

At the time of writing, 247 people have been confirmed dead, with nearly 400 people injured, in one of the worst European natural disasters of recent years.

Now, with efforts ongoing to rescue people affected by the disaster, the Italian Red Cross (Croce Rossa), has taken to Twitter to seek some very 21st-century support from locals: their internet connection.

On its Twitter page, the organisation has offered instructions and asked people in the region to disable their Wi-Fi passwords to allow crews of rescuers and aid workers get online faster.

Increasing risk of cyberattacks

This would open up new lines of communication that would otherwise be reliant on telephone lines or radio systems that may have been affected by the recent earthquake.

There is also the issue that many people will be attempting to call loved ones elsewhere to let them know that they’re okay, resulting in delayed connections that could prevent a call that could save a person’s life.

Despite the plea being issued by the Red Cross, Terence Eden, an independent security researcher speaking with Wired, warned of a potential surge in cyberattacks against the Red Cross and people who temporarily remove their passwords.

“You want to help, but if you open up your network anyone who can connect to it could send malicious communications, download illegal material or potentially hack any computer connected to that network,” he said.

Main image via Antonio Nardelli/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic