The Red Cross Wants Italians in Earthquake Disaster Area to Deactivate Wi-Fi Passwords

Just this once, it might be important to set cybersecurity aside. 

Croce Rossa Italiana

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a devastating magnitude-6.2 earthquake struck Central Italy, killing dozens and reportedly leaving many more trapped in the rubble. While rescue and recovery efforts are still underway, the Italian Red Cross has made a surprising appeal to those still in the area, requesting over Twitter that they remove password protection from their Wi-Fi routers.

During a disaster, mobile technologies can sometimes become inaccessible, either because infrastructure goes down or because bandwidth proves inadequate. Researchers have proposed in the past that home and business Wi-Fi networks might provide an alternative to other communications technologies, offering rescue teams a better way to remain in contact with one another and find survivors.

The image attached to the the Red Cross’ Twitter post provides step-by-step instructions for deactivating password protection. As Google Translate (slightly modified below) indicates, it reads:

Get access to the Internet by typing the [router’s LAN address] into your browser.

Enter your username and current password that you find in the instructions or on the device.

Log in and go to “options.”

Remove the protections by selecting Network “Free/unsecure.”

Perform a router reset by holding down the power button for 10 seconds.

Such precise details are necessary in part because few of us know how our routers really work. Here at Future Tense, we’ve regularly written on the importance of router security. As Josephine Wolff writes, it’s all too important to forget how important they can be—and how many elements of our lives filter through them.* Under ordinary circumstances, there are a host of precautions you should take to ensure that yours remains secure. These, however, are not ordinary circumstances.

*Correction, Aug. 24, 2016: This piece originally misspelled Josephine Wolff’s last name.