You might have thought that, by now, with so many stories overhyping and misleading people about the "threat" of open WiFi that local news reporters would know better than to run another one. Yet, here we have a local TV news station in Fresno, California running a standard "open WiFi is pure evil" story with some amusing additions. First, they say that it's a "big city crime" that's now moving out to more rural areas. Funny, we're still not convinced it's a crime, let alone a "big city" one. Second, the news report talks about someone arrested and charged with "stealing internet service," because he was found sitting in a car with a laptop. The video report on the story even includes a mug shot with big red words "ARRESTED" to scare off those of you rural citizens who are attracted to this "big city crime." The news report also repeats the usual stuff about identity theft and whatnot without actually understanding the real issue (such as the fact that identity theft is extremely unlikely). It's also not at all clear how leaving your WiFi open will lead to obscene emails. There's a great part in the video, also, where a "cyber technician" shows a positively shocked reporter that he can see someone else's network (oh my goodness!) right from his very computer! And, then, he notes conspiratorially that if it weren't encrypted, which it is, he could use that network to actually surf the internet! So scary! Just using someone else's wireless connection is still a very gray zone when it comes to whether or not it's a crime. As people have pointed out, many people leave their WiFi open on purpose, to allow others to use it. The "loss" to the owner is minimal, if anything at all. Plus, there are some real legal questions about who owns those radio waves once they're off your property. We're all for people being more secure with their own WiFi, but these misleading and fear mongering stories really need to go.
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