(KPIX 5) – Google’s admission that its Street View mapping project violated people’s privacy should serve as a wake-up call to consumers about how easily their personal information can be tapped, according to a leading computer security expert.

Scott Cleland, president of Internet privacy consulting firm Precursor LLC, told ConsumerWatch that Google was able to obtain passwords, account numbers and emails from unsecured routers.

Cleland said small-time crooks are accessing personal information in the same way, by driving slowly through neighborhoods with laptop computers trying to find open Wi-Fi signals, a practice called Wardriving.

“There are many people who do it on a small scale, small-time crooks,” Cleland told ConsumerWatch.

Cleland, and others, have said the best defense is to secure your router, with a robust password. In fact, most routers come with a standard password, that many people don’t bother to change.

“If you don’t encrypt your Wi-Fi router, people like Google can come in and eavesdrop. That’s the big takeaway,” he said.

Google’s agreed to pay a $7 million dollar fine and make educational videos instructing the public about how to guard against privacy violations.

For more information on securing your network, watch this CNET Video.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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