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Your Home Wi-Fi Can Be Hacked in Minutes

Studies find when older people go online, depression can be reduced and brain function improved. But only 42 percent of people over 65 are online.

You may feel safe surfing the Web in your living room, but your next-door neighbor could hack into your password-protected Wi-Fi network in a matter of minutes.

German researcher Thomas Roth said he was able to guess the encrypted password to a Wi-Fi network in his native Cologne using the massive calculating power of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud virtual supercomputer, which anyone can buy time on.

Cloud computers — networks of remote servers handling processing and data storage — enable users to execute tasks at dizzying speeds. Roth uploaded his own specialized software to Amazon’s cloud and got it to test 400,000 potential Wi-Fi user passwords per second.

Like most up-to-date home Wi-Fi networks, Roth's compromised test network used the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption standard, which is difficult to crack.

But any password can be guessed, given enough processing power or "brute force" --- and that's exactly what Roth bought cheaply from Amazon.

Amazon charges 28 cents per minute to use its cloud servers, and Roth's initial break-in took about 20 minutes, at a presumable cost of $5.40. He told Reuters he later updated his software to perform the same attack in about six minutes, which would have cost $1.68.

Roth said he wanted his proof-of-concept hack to prove that even home and business Wi-Fi networks that have been deemed unbreakable are dangerously vulnerable.

“People tell me there is no possible way to break WPA, or, if it were possible, it would cost you a ton of money to do so,” Roth said. “But it is easy to brute-force them.”