Two People Arrested In England For WiFi Theft

from the laws-with-holes dept

We've been following stories about people being arrested for "stealing WiFi" for some time now, and we're still unsure of exactly what the crime is. If a person is accessing an open WiFi network without physically trespassing, should that be illegal, or should it be the network owner's responsibility to secure their network? Furthermore, how are people supposed to know what networks are okay for them to access, given the way many public-access networks use cryptic SSIDs? Anyhow, despite these questions, people continue to get arrested for using other people's WiFi networks, though it's been a while since we've seen it happen in the US. A couple of people have been busted in Singapore, where there's a specific law that could get you three years in the pokey for unauthorized access of a WiFi network. Now, two people in England have been arrested for WiFi theft, or more specifically, "dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment." To be fair, one of the people sounds like he wasn't up to much good, since it was his sitting in a car with cardboard covering the windows that attracted attention to him. While the police say that using somebody else's WiFi can get a sentence of up to five years in jail under the UK's Computer Misuse Act, this seems like an area where the law doesn't do a good job of dealing with technology, since it's virtually impossible for users to tell private, but unsecured networks from public ones that they're allowed to access. If people don't want strangers using their network, there a plenty of steps they can take to prevent them from doing so. That seems like a more reasonable response than threatening WiFi bandits with jail.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Oliver Wendell Jones, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 3:50pm

    A simple solution that will be ignored...

    Manufacturers could change the default SSID from "Linksys" or "D-Link" to something like "NOT_PUBLIC" so that noone will "accidentally" connect to a wireless hub and claim "I had no idea that 'NOT_PUBLIC' meant it wasn't for public use..."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 3:58pm

    Re: A simple solution that will be ignored...

    Simply not broadcasting your SSID is easy enough to do. The problem is no one reads the freaking manual to know that going to 192.168.1.1 and changing the default admin pass from empty user name login admin (linksys varies for routers) and setting it to use WEP, WPA or some other encryption is quite simple. People plug these in they have wireless not knowing or not caring that everyone in a half mile radius now has free net access. Its the fault of the companies for not making you choose an encryption during the router setups, and promoting plug and go technology the average person plugs it in and ohhh i have wireless...
    ps i'm writing this post from someone else's wireless in my appt building how ironic.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:14pm

    Better plug your ears when you pass by someone playing music, lest you participate in an unauthorized broadcast of data via invisible waves through the air.

     

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    Rick, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:22pm

    Oliver is right - the router companies should be defaulting them to non-public. Something as simple as Linksys-NOT_PUBLIC as the default SSID would be a good step.

    As for people needing to turn on WEP or WPA - not all wireless cards, PCs and/or OS's support WEP and/or WPA or it is so difficult and confusing to configure people don;t do it.

    I'm fairly adept technology wise, yet I have an older HP laptop that only supports the older encryption, plus it has an odd quirk that won't let me upgrade to XP SP2's wireless update. Everytime I do try to configure it properly, it refuses or ignores my changes - always leaving me unconnected completely.

    I have no choice but to leave my network open if I want to use that laptop on the network - which I intend to do until it stops running completely. I'm sure I'm not the only one who runs older quirky laptops...

     

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    sam, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:23pm

    gotta tell you...

    i like your args... if the signal is in the air... and you didn't do anything (or enough) to keep me frm using/accessing it..it's mine baby!!!!!

    a guy i know was getting grey market satellite devices for accessing cable tv... his logic.. i'm not committing any crime, i'm just getting the signal from the air.. i haven't touched the machines/property/etc... of the satellite company...

    you guys are saying pretty much the same thing.

    tell you what, when you guys run out, and leave your door/window open, let me know where you live. i might want to run in and use your fridge/telephone/tv/etc...

    given your logic, you shouldn't object!!!!!

    puuuhhhlleeeze!!

    if you're reasonably technically competent, you know, if you didn't set up the router, someone else did. if it's not coming from some corp/biz location, it's probably by some user who forgot/didn't know how to setup the security aspects. so what i'm saying, is, if you're not sure, don't use the access...

    but as long as you're willing to play by the rules, i'm willing to play the game with you!

    peace

     

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    cannen, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:28pm

    Public Air Waves

    Isn't there some law that basically says that anything broadcast on the public air waves is available to the public? Kinda like CB radios?

    If someone keys the mic on a CB and speaks, the signal is broadcast out and anyone within range can pick it up. Also, since they are on the same channel, they can then key their mic and speak back. All in public.

    So, if that is legal, why isn't it legal to receive a wireless internet signal, and broadcast back? If it was private, it would be secured in such a way as to prevent that.

     

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    Charles Griswold, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:32pm

    Wireless Security by Default

    IMHO, manufacturers should disable wireless by default and leave the wireless access password blank. If someone wants to enable wireless, they have to explicitly do so and enter a password (or click a checkbox to say that they don't want a password). Basically, make it so that you need to explicitly set your router up for free public access instead of having that be the default.

    On the other hand, if they did that the stupid people would whine about how it's too hard to set up their router. Bleh. OK, put a big switch on the router. Label it "secure" and "open". Set it to "secure" by default. If they move the switch to "open", then they have no one to blame but themselves if their wireless gets used by the neighbor's 12-year-old kid.

     

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    Brett, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:32pm

    It *is* a crime in Canada

    It falls under "Theft of Telecommunications Service" i.e. Radio Signals. (C-47 s.326). It's like satellite... just because it's broadcasted into public space doesn't give you the right to use it for free.

     

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    Charles Griswold, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:37pm

    Re:

    tell you what, when you guys run out, and leave your door/window open, let me know where you live. i might want to run in and use your fridge/telephone/tv/etc...

    given your logic, you shouldn't object!!!!!


    Um, no. That's why smart people lock their doors (if they're not living in one of the few areas left where that's not necessary) and . . . wait for it . . . password protect their wireless routers. BTW, if someone leaves their door open and unlocked and you wander into their house, you can't get it for "breaking and entering" since you didn't break in.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:40pm

    Way to miss the point, clowns. Nobody here has been saying its not illegal. Theyve been saying its ridiculous to expect people to respect the situation when it is thrust on them in such a confusing manner. Any ass knows he's not welcome in a stranger's house through the window. Does any ass know which open wireless networks he's on? Maybe you think he should be smart enough to figure it out, but are you going to risk sending someone to pound me in the ass prison for choosing wrong? Especially when such a simple mechanism of specifying the owner's intent for use of the device--a password--was totally forgone?

    Go ahead and send them to prison for screwing up along with the satellite stealing lowlifes and rapists. And go to hell while you're at it.

    Oh you don't want to send them to prison? You just want them to be smart? Hahahha might as well wish for wings.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:41pm

    Re:

    I have no choice but to leave my network open if I want to use that laptop on the network - which I intend to do until it stops running completely.
    That's not much of an excuse. If that piece of equipment is broken it is your responsibility to either fix it, replace it, or live with the consequences if you continue to use it knowing that it is broken. It reminds me of someone driving around in an old junker with bald tires, no lights and bad brakes "until it stops running completely"; thank goodness we laws to address that one.

    Again, it's your responsibility to maintain your own equipment: No excuse.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:44pm

    Whilst I agree that using wireless and having it unsecured is extremely stupid, I do sypathise with countries like the UK where you are charged on bandwidth usage.

    Bear in mind that most ISPs in the UK have no such thing as unlimited bandwidth and those that claim they do actually have stringent fair use policies. They then rape you in the arse if you go beyond your bandwidth limit.

    BT, who I used to be with, used to charge £1 (~$2) per GB although I believe it's more like £0.25 now.

    But still having some cunt leech off you could be very costly.

     

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    Adam Sessler, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:50pm

    Re: PPV SAT vs FREE WIFI.... NOT THE SAME!!!

    "a guy i know was getting grey market satellite devices for accessing cable tv... his logic.. i'm not committing any crime, i'm just getting the signal from the air.. i haven't touched the machines/property/etc... of the satellite company..."

    The problem I have with his, "i'm just getting the signal from the air" statement is that in order to make use of that signal, you would need to decrypt/unscramble it.

    The Satellite companies would normally encrypt the signals they were using - and every few months (or before a big PPV event) they would send down new keys to authorized receivers and then scramble the signal, only letting those authorised, to used it.

    Back on-topic though, if the wifi signal was open, it should be just fine - but if the wifi signal is encrypted, it should be criminal to bypass that security.

     

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    Last Time Reader, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:53pm

    This is the last completely imbecilic artilce I will read from this poorly run website. When I see something like "Technews", I figure it's going to be about new deals, new hardware, software, virus alerts, etc, not trying to protect people from "wardriving", which is the correct word to represent this article. The authors of this website have nothing better to do than talk about how dumb "the man" is when half the time "the man" is doing something completely acceptable. When you sit outside someone's house with nothing else around and wonder "hmm, why am I getting arrested from using this public wireless? Isn't that private residence a public coffee shop?"...that just doesn't cut it. If you are technologically behind enough to not be able to set up a router with security, does that mean you shouldn't be able to use it? Should we always assume that someone is going to try and rob/hurt/kill you every day of your life? If that is what you guys think, you are sick and twisted and the world doesn't need you, because you're the demented kind that will end up striking first "because I could see they were about to shoot me" or some bulls*** like that.

    Open wifi in a neighborhood doesn't mean public. If it comes from a private residence, which is easy to tell when there is not a single place that says "free hotspot" outside for a mile radius (since wireless doesn't transmit that far, anyway), don't try and get away with saying "I didn't know", because that should mean more time behind bars for lying to a officer of the law. If you don't like the rules, I'm sorry, but I could really care less what most of the people that write articles for this website think, because I haven't seen a single competant thought come from anyone writing here except when talking about the RIAA or MPAA.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:53pm

    Re:

    i like your args... if the signal is in the air... and you didn't do anything (or enough) to keep me frm using/accessing it..it's mine baby!!!!!

    a guy i know was getting grey market satellite devices for accessing cable tv... his logic.. i'm not committing any crime, i'm just getting the signal from the air.. i haven't touched the machines/property/etc... of the satellite company...

    you guys are saying pretty much the same thing.

    No, they're not saying the same thing. In fact, just the opposite. Someone cracking an encrypted signal, be it WiFi or satellite, is commiting a crime. Someone receiving an unencrypted over the air signal, be it WiFi or satellite, is not.

    By the way, I call BS on your claim of knowing "a guy" using satellite devices to get cable TV. Satellites don't have cables going up to them. Now go "puuuhhhlleeeze!!" yourself.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:55pm

    Re:

    dont let the door hit you on the way out.

     

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    Cannen, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:56pm

    Who is the criminal

    Who is bringing the charges, the person who has the service or the ISP? If it is the ISP, why aren't they suing the subscriber for leaving their valuable network wide-open for the abuse to occur? The signal is delivered secure.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 4:57pm

    Re: Public Air Waves

    Isn't there some law that basically says that anything broadcast on the public air waves is available to the public?
    Only if it's unencrypted, which is what all the hubbub is about: people wanting to broadcast unencrypted signals but still have no one else listen in.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:01pm

    Come on, get off the BS Carlo. We all know when we are stealing and when it's ok to have something. Do you really need you parents to sort this out?
    Granted, many have done their share of stealing as well; "file sharing" is a prime example. But if I were to get caught doing that, claiming ignorance is no excuse.
    Don't do the crime if you can't do the time baby.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:07pm

    Re: It *is* a crime in Canada

    It falls under "Theft of Telecommunications Service" i.e. Radio Signals. (C-47 s.326). It's like satellite... just because it's broadcasted into public space doesn't give you the right to use it for free.
    Even if it's unencrypted? Can any other Canadians confirm this?

    By the way, I looked up C.47 s3.26 in the Consolidated Statutes of Canada. That came back as the Trust Indentures clause of the Insurance Companies Act. You're not making stuff up are you?

     

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    Brett, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:12pm

    Re:Re: It *is* a crime in Canada

     

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    SimpleTech, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:18pm

    Changes are happening

    Saying that its the company's fault for not setting the dam thing up for protection is a bit much... Next thing you know everyone will be putting the blaim on them and then the lawsuites begin... and who the hell wants that! Except for lawyers of course.
    Anyway The fact is that some companies are sending there routers out with some sort of protection recently. I just upgraded to Verizon FIOS and the wireless router that came with it already had a random admin password along with a WEP key already set up and printed on the side of it. So its starting to happen and wouldnt doubt it if Linksys and D-LInk start to do this soon as well.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:18pm

    Re:

    This is the last completely imbecilic artilce I will read from this poorly run website.
    If only that were true.

    If it comes from a private residence, which is easy to tell when there is not a single place that says "free hotspot" outside for a mile radius (since wireless doesn't transmit that far, anyway), don't try and get away with saying "I didn't know", because that should mean more time behind bars for lying to a officer of the law.
    I run a free open hotspot from my home. Why should anyone go to jail for using it?

    If you don't like the rules, I'm sorry, but I could really care less what most of the people that write articles for this website think...
    So who died and made you king? I've got news for you, your rules are not "the rules".

     

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    lizard, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:21pm

    PC Licence?

    I know several otherwise bright folks who don't have a clue whose wireless network they're on -- they bought a wireless router, they plugged it in, they got on the internet, what's the problem? Problem is in densely populated areas (urban condos f'rinstance) you can choose from a half dozen or more wireless signals from any one spot -- most unencrypted. Unless you go into your wireless settings and instruct your computer NOT to connect to other people's access points, it will connect to the strongest signal at the time, AND potentially **make you a criminal** in the process. RTFM? My (otherwise bright) friends just ... they're tech-impaired, ok? But I love them anyway.

    My point, and I do have one: if you're going to talk about making people responsible for inadvertently breaking a law, then maybe we should consider requiring PC licenses like we do drivers' licenses. Make people pass a test whereby they prove they know what the laws are and how not to break them (or at least to know what they're breaking when they break it, like drivers, so they can answer when asked, "do you know why I pulled you over?"). No?

    Then by default we will have ignorance in the user base and as a result we will have people on other people's networks. Arresting them seems rather draconian.

     

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    Dav, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:25pm

    WEP anyone?

    After my recent purchace of a PDA I am surprised by the large number of unsecured networks i have picked up in the UK which are unsecured. I would estimate the value at aproximatly 50%.

    I find it ignorent that people think the law is the solution to this problem when in reality it is far more simple, teach people the importance of adding encryption to their networks and instructions on how to do it. Seeing as manufacturers could achieve this with "IMPORTANT always secure your network" or something on the box i dont see why arrests are neccacary.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re:Re: It *is* a crime in Canada

    It's not C.47 s3.26!
    It misplaced a dot in my reply. I actually searched on C.47 s.326 and came up with the insurance info.

    But using the link you provided I read
    326. (1) Every one commits theft who fraudulently, maliciously, or without colour of right,
    ...
    (b) uses any telecommunication facility or obtains any telecommunication service.
    So, fraud, malice or lack of right must be involved. That's a different story from just using an open hotspot.

    It's also interesting how they define telecomunication in your selected reference:
    (2) In this section and section 327, "telecommunication" means any transmission, emission or reception of signs, signals, writing, images or sounds or intelligence of any nature by wire, radio, visual or other electromagnetic system.
    So, reading (reception of writing) a sign (visual) would constitute "telecommunications" according to this. Now, to follow your argument would mean that you can also go to jail in Canada for reading a sign without permission. I find that hard to believe. I think there must be more to the law than just this one little short section you selectively referenced.

     

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    Jayson, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:06pm

    Sometimes you don't know

    So here's the scenario. I have a co-worker whose home I go to on a regular basis. Despite my repeated suggestions, he does not want to secure it. Now here's the kicker - he has a linksys router, set to the default linksys SSiD... so does his neighbor. Since Windows just searches for SSiD and finds the one with the best signal, depending on where we are in the house, we may be on either network, but there's no way of knowing short of logging into the router and checking. (Consequently his neighbor has DSL service and he has Cable service - so logging into the router does allow me to see which network I'm on).

     

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    Charles Griswold, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:09pm

    Stupid People

    Making your wireless router publicly available for anyone to use, and then expecting that no one will use it is STUPID!!!

    There, I've said it. I feel better now.

     

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    Pedro, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:24pm

    Eat More Taco's...

    Pedro says wirelesss is no good. You migo's are fat and lazy. Eat more lettuce.

     

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    Urza, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:24pm

    Re: A simple solution that will be ignored...

    Exactly. Having the companies themselves do something is the ONLY way this is going to work. You would be amazed at how many people I have gone to to fix their computers, went to look at the router settings, asked what their password was, and got a blank stare. Even people who know about computers (the one is currently learning Python and is planning to minor in comp. sci. next year) generally have no idea. I usually don't even bother asking them anymore, I just try various combinations of 'admin' 'default' and 'linksys' until I get it open.

     

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    Hyrulio, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:35pm

    Fools

    If you were just innocently connected to the wrong network, say, your neighbours instead of your own because your laptop automatically connects to the strongest signal, then that's not so bad, nobody's getting hurt intentionally.

    But these people were intentionally going around and using something that other people were paying for without permission! That's illegal whether the internet's involved or not!

    Someone who lives near me has their router unsecured, and i can connect to it, but the signal is so weak it's not worth it! At my uncles house however, his router is unsecured (he lives in a tiny village), and I frequently use his internet from my laptop! He doesn't give me express permission every time, but he never complains! Arrest me now? Damn...

     

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    Bri (profile), Apr 17th, 2007 @ 6:45pm

    Re:

    Then leave if you hate techdirt so much! Wait, you never had permission to be accessing a private server on a private network in the first place!!! BUSTED! You just committed the same crime as the wardriver in question.

     

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    WirelessBlocker, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Re: A simple solution that will be ignored...

    Wow, I'm surprised no one replied to this one.

    Anyways, blocking SSID does absolutely nothing. It's the same thing as saying just setup MAC address filtering. It's been proven to be completely useless.

     

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    Misty Olen, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 7:55pm

    Stupid People=Victim Role

    Stupid people easily fall into the victim role.

    They were stupid enough not to secure the router, either they didn't know how or didn't want to. They weren't smart enough to hire someone else to do it for them, or better yet to teach them about how to secure it themselves. Now they want to cry about how someone took advantage of them.

    It's like leaving money spread out on your front lawn and expecting everyone in the world to be nice enough to leave it there. People aren't that nice, and if these open WiFi owners don't get that then they are in for a learning experience.

     

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    Ayal Rosenthal, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 9:30pm

    Is it still stealing?

    I used to leave my wireless network open at most times so that others can benefit from it when I didn't use it. Its the polite thing to do.

     

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    Person, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 10:40pm

    Don't have to use Encryption

    There are other ways that most common people won'
    t be able to get around while protecting the person who has the wireless router. You don't have to use WPA or WEP. You can turn on a mac address filter which most routers have. You can turn off the broadcast of the SSID so that you have to know what it is to get connected. IF someone attempts or succeeds at connecting to a network that is protected in those two manners then they aren't up to any good. I sell these things on a regular basis from a computer store. People can pay for them to be set up and at fairly reasonable prices considering how much it would cost to hire a free-lance professional. OR they can just read the instruction manual. IF they can't handle that they should have a wireless router.

     

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    Charles Griswold, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 10:43pm

    Re: Is it still stealing?

    I used to leave my wireless network open at most times so that others can benefit from it when I didn't use it. Its the polite thing to do.

    Encouraging people to steal from you? For shame! Didn't you know that inciting someone to commit a crime is a crime?

    . . .

    Wow. I almost got though that with a straight face. :-)

     

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    Mike (profile), Apr 17th, 2007 @ 11:20pm

    Re:

    a guy i know was getting grey market satellite devices for accessing cable tv... his logic.. i'm not committing any crime, i'm just getting the signal from the air.. i haven't touched the machines/property/etc... of the satellite company...

    That's different. That's purposely breaking a lock (the encryption) that was put in place. That's not so with open WiFi (hence the open).

    you guys are saying pretty much the same thing.

    No. No we're not.

    tell you what, when you guys run out, and leave your door/window open, let me know where you live. i might want to run in and use your fridge/telephone/tv/etc.

    Sam, you seem to have trouble understanding the differences between what we actually say and some ridiculous scenarios we haven't said at all.

    What you're describing is actually trespassing. First, you're asking them to leave the doors open. We're not saying that anyone needs to leave the door open. Second, your example involves actually going on someone's property. In this case, it's completely different. The person has *broadcast* the open unencrypted signal beyond their property line. At that point, it's fair game.

    Have you ever walked by someone's house and seen their TV through the window. Is that illegal?

    Have you ever walked by someone's house and used the light from their house or street light to read something while in the street?

    Both situations are much more analogous. Radio waves or light waves from the house have gone beyond the property. There's nothing wrong with using them.

    So, please, try to understand what we say before making bad assumptions.

     

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    Trespasser, Apr 17th, 2007 @ 11:55pm

    It should be the same as trespass

    That UK law is way over the top. It should be changed to be the same as trespass.

    Trespass is only a crime if the person, once reasonably informed they are trespassing refuses to leave.

    So I can walk across a lawn, only to find it's someones garden, and it isn't a crime. He tells me to get off his lawn and I comply.

    Likewise Wifi 'theft', there's not way to tell the difference between an open connection thats deliberate or an accidental one. So it shouldn't be a crime until the person is informed that it isn't an open connection.

     

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  40.  
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    bA, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 3:02am

    Re:

    Rick ... you are right about WEP/WPA (besides WEP can be cracked pretty easy). Some use MAC filtering and password protect accounts on the network with critical data.

    As for the comment above about the manuf. making the user setup using encryption ... well that is just what we need someone else telling us what is good for us ... tried Windows Vista, yet ... I don't need any more nannies! gov't, MS, now Cisco ...

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Geeb, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 3:10am

    Re: It should be the same as trespass

    > there's not way to tell the difference between an open connection thats deliberate or an accidental one.

    Well, no technical, guaranteed foolproof way, but it's often pretty obvious. If you're in Starbucks and the guy nextdoor has set up an unsecured network call STARB1, then it's an easy mistake, and I don't think you'd end up with a conviction for that one. If you're parked in a residential area and you log on to GEEBNET, realistically you're on much safer ground assuming that it's a private network that I didn't know how to secure, rather than some public-spirited yet strangely unadvertised free access point.

    It's only "virtually impossible for users to tell private, but unsecured networks from public ones that they're allowed to access" in some cases, definitely not all. There's room for a judge/jury to make a call, and that's how it should be.

    In this instance, it sounds like "dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment" is exactly what they were doing.

    Putting the onus on people to secure their networks seems very optimistic in terms of the general tech-savviness of Joe Public. It's rather more fair to assume that a geezer in a blacked-out car with a foil-covered Pringles tube is sufficiently clued-up to know what he's doing.

    Maybe jail is harsh for wardriving, but blaming the victim is not the answer either. And this crime could very easily have a victim.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Ian, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 3:55am

    Wi-fi theft

    There is a good BBC news video story about this at:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hereford/worcs/6565079.stm

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Trespasser, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 5:07am

    Guilt by default

    "There's room for a judge/jury to make a call, and that's how it should be."

    No, I don't think so. I shouldn't have to worry about whether I'm committing a crime whenever I use an open Wifi connection.

    There's nothing inherently evil in accessing the Internet via an Open WiFi connection. It's just the 'fear of the unknown' we see with new things.

    I should not have to rely on convincing a judge of my innocence or even a policeman, imagine if every act of trespass resulted in a court case or a police visit. You'd be terrified to cross any field or patch of scrub land for fear of being arrested.

    He was prosecuted under "dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment"

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2003/30021--c.htm

    Section b of that has the problem:
    "does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service,"

    And how does he tell the difference between a free open WiFi, and one that requires some payment or condition (e.g. free only to starbucks customers, etc.).

    It's unreasonable to expect that, and so the law should be amended to make it reasonable.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 5:20am

    Brett:

    Section 326 of C.47 is for people who fraudulently, maliciously, or without colour of right obtain telecommunication service.

    The problem you have here is that people with Open WiFi extend an invitation through the granting of a DHCP lease. Get that through your head.

    To once again use the house analogy: If someone asks to come into your house, and you have an automated butler sitting there, and you come off the street and say "can I come in" and he says "YES" then there is IS "colour of right". Whose fault is it in that case?

    If they have MAC address filtering or authentication or WEP/WPA/WPA2 or VPN to a gateway and you bypass that in any way, then I'd say you don't have any rights. If the WAP is set up not to grant DHCP leases to just anyone, then that's still a mechanism to keep unwanted people out and you could be construed as bypassing it. Until any of that happens, the "colour of right" is clearly in the favor of the guest.

    And while we're at it, let's read Section 327 says that it's a crime to possess tools to do this. By your logic, any one who has a WiFi card in their computer is guilty of a crime.

    Shucks...guess your argument doesn't work in that case, does it? Again - the point here is why criminalize the mere act of accessing an open WAP? Granted, it does not excuse illegal use such as to send harassing e-mails or downloading illegal pornography, but that is a separate and non-conjoined issue.

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Stuart, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 7:25am

    Re:

    That is a horrible way to look at things. As a people we need to stop this insane slide into a world where personal responsibility means nothing. Sure. We can put more and more burden on everyone else in the world to make sure that the stupid and illequiped are able to function just as well as those of us who can get things done and think for ourselves. This will not though lead to a good place. It will lead only to a lazy, iresponsible, unmotivated and unproductive world.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Wizard Prang, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 8:50am

    Not quite

    While it is certainly not "secure" just to do these things, but you are wrong in saying that it does absolutely nothing. IMO it is better than nothing, for two reasons.

    Firstly, blocking SSID transmission and using MAC address filtering is enough to keep the casual snooper out. It is true that it does not deter the die-hard war-driver, but if someone is determined enough to get into your network and they know their stuff, in most cases they will.

    Secondly, and more importantly, it shows some effort to keep people out. It is scary how many people have absolutely no protection of their wireless networks (blog entry).

    For some who have older hardware that does not support WPA and who cannot use WEP (some Tivo/Hardware combinations, for instance, don't like WEP), these might be the only options that they have.

    Personally I feel those who run totally insecure networks should have no recourse for anything that does not involve damages.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Wizard Prang, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 9:17am

    Well buh-bye then...

    It is easy to cast the blame here.

    We can blame the hardware companies for not making their hardware secure out-the-box. Of course, if they did, the number of tech support calls would skyrocket and this would be reflected in the price of said hardware...

    We can blame the big bad wardrivers, and arrest some local teenager who was checking his e-mail, or an out-of-town sales-rep who was using Google Maps to get directions to his next sales call.

    Or we can say "caveat emptor", and require operators of wireless networks to do their homework. It ain't exactly hard. One solution would me to treat wireless networks like ham radio and require operators to be licensed. Do you really want that? I don't.

    As I said elsewhere, I think that it is wrong for people to be arrested for using an insecure network unless they cause measurable damages. And don't give me any drivel about "theft of services" unless it it is measurable and significant. The nearest analogy that I can think of is like watching TV through someone's window from a public street. It ain't illegal; that's why we have curtains. Do the same thing with wireless Internet and suddenly your a felon.


    If you are technologically behind enough to not be able to set up a router with security, does that mean you shouldn't be able to use it?

    Certainly not... but do you really expect the government to subsidize the ignorance of people who don't understand technology and are unwilling to ask for help?

    Try leaving your front door open and going about your business. When you get burgled, make an insurance claim, but make sure that you tell them about the open door, and see if they pay up. They probably won't, and the explanation will likely include the words "due diligence".

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    Wizard Prang, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 9:23am

    Been there, Done that

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Wizard Prang, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 9:49am

    It isn't stealing...

    ...but I hope that RIAA don't send their goon squad to knock down your door. :)

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 10:41am

    Re: Don't have to use Encryption

    You don't have to use WPA or WEP. You can turn on a mac address filter which most routers have. You can turn off the broadcast of the SSID so that you have to know what it is to get connected.
    That's bad advise. It's like telling people that they don't really need to lock their doors at night, just turning off the porch light is good enough. Those things won't secure a wireless network.

     

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  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re: It should be the same as trespass

    Well, no technical, guaranteed foolproof way, but it's often pretty obvious.
    Now let me get this straight: you're telling us that you can tell the difference by the SSID name? Hahahaha! Yeah right, good one.

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: It should be the same as trespass

    "There's room for a judge/jury to make a call, and that's how it should be."

    No, it isn't. Laws should be clear enough that people know whether or not an action would break them before hand.

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Charles Griswold, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Re: Don't have to use Encryption

    You don't have to use WPA or WEP. You can turn on a mac address filter which most routers have. You can turn off the broadcast of the SSID so that you have to know what it is to get connected.

    That's bad advise. It's like telling people that they don't really need to lock their doors at night, just turning off the porch light is good enough. Those things won't secure a wireless network.
    If you have the MAC address filter turned on, and configured so that only you can get in, then other authentication should be moot. It would be like having an iris scanner on your front door. You could just walk in without needing a key, but anyone else would be locked out.

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Nasty Old Geezer, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 3:04pm

    Bad analogies

    The best suggestion I have seen in here is that the router makers default the SSID to something obvious like "Private_Residence". Then the non-techies who just plug and go would still have some protection.

    Note to you thieves: even if I leave my door open -- you walk in and start poking around you are guilty of illegal entry and probably burglary (most juridictions don't specify that you take anything to be guilty). You should know better than wander in a residence, regardless of the security of the residence.

    If you decide to make your router available to any and all -- then they are not comitting a crime, but YOUR ISP may take a dim view of it and cut your connection since you are usually violating the TOS.

    I secure my wireless using the available tools and I lock my doors. Both are ineffective against overwhelming force, and that is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is the idea even if I don't do those things, I am still protected against people helping themselves without explicit permission.

    PS for all you arrogant chipheads -- before you sneer at non-techies as "stupid", you should try your hand at whatever is the center of THEIR lives. You will also need to include your own grandparents and (most likey) parents as "stupid" so what does that make you?

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    Xenohacker@hotmail.com, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 4:08pm

    My 2 Cents

    Proving the damages from an unauthorized access to a wireless network is tricky. So I feel security is the responsibility of the network owner!!! However, morally it is wrong. I do feel WiFi hijacking should be an internet crime if there is proof the hijacker affected availability of the network. Although, determining the actual cost of the loss is even more tricky. However, simply connecting and using the network might be correctly categorized as trespassing as well as petty theft because because you are taking bandwidth that was not yours to use. I feel that since people are typically incapable of knowing what actual damage was caused if any and what exactly was done and for how long. Sentencing on this should be a slap on the wrist. Here are a few tips so you don't have to care about this issue as much:

    Proper hardening would include all WiFi features:

    1. Use the strongest encyption available
    2. Turn on MAC filtering (Access Control)
    3. Turn off broadcast SSID after your configured

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    Brett, Apr 18th, 2007 @ 4:32pm

    Re: Brett:

    327. (1) Every one who, without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on him, manufactures, possesses, sells or offers for sale or distributes any instrument or device or any component thereof, the design of which renders it primarily useful for obtaining the use of any telecommunication facility or service, under circumstances that give rise to a reasonable inference that the device has been used or is or was intended to be used to obtain the use of any telecommunication facility or service without payment of a lawful charge therefor, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
    If I own a router and a wireless card, I have a lawful excuse to use it. To connect to my wireless internet connection.

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    Geeb, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 12:25am

    Re: Re: Re: It should be the same as trespass

    > you're telling us that you can tell the difference by the SSID name?

    No, but I can often make quite a good guess on the basis of whether I'm somewhere that advertises free wi-fi or sitting outside someone's house.

     

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  58.  
    identicon
    Brett, Apr 28th, 2007 @ 4:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It should be the same as trespass

    'Quite a good guess' isnt really much use is it? Sometimes you would be accessing a network that wasnt intended to be accessed, and sometimes you will wrongly decide not to use a network that was specifically setup to give you free access...

    Some cities have free access over a wide area.. Its impossible in a large city these days to make a safe guess as to which open networks are intentionally open or not, so the end-user should be given the benefit of the doubt. Sounds like some laws need to be developed, and systems improved to make all this clearer for consumers?

     

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  59.  
    identicon
    Another Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2007 @ 10:00am

    Re: Anonymous Coward's post

    Hilarious! You might also want to plug your ears when your apartment neighbors fight or have loud sex, since that's personal data they're transmitting (even though they're not doing anything to prevent it from being intercepted).

     

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  60.  
    identicon
    Majei, May 22nd, 2007 @ 3:38am

    Re: Re:

    But you can get done for tresspassing...

     

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  61.  
    identicon
    Poor boy:(, May 22nd, 2007 @ 3:49am

    Aa)Somone help me!!!

    I use a wireless network im not sure i should. The only thing is, im not sure if it belongs to someone or it is public. Its a network called 'MFF' and ive been useing it for quite a long time without any problems. The main reason I use this network is that it is 'unsecured', The main thing I would like to say is that I DIDENT HAVE TO CHANGE ANYTHING! to connect to the network, all I done was click on the network and connect, no hastle, no hacking... i said to myself that its a public network I dont think it is fair that it is illegal, as if somone dident protect it, that is their fault. However when i was studying this subject i found it it a serious offence. Im only 14 and im very scared....:( Ive stopped useing the network, but i want to know if its okay to use.

    Please write back, and help me :(

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    Matt, Aug 15th, 2007 @ 1:13pm

    its harsh

    It's harsh if the unsuspecting 'oooh, look ive got wireless' dumb ass doesn't put protection on, and they're not on an unlimited connection!
    But then I'm currently downloading at 100kbs from sum1's connection, but hey, its free. But then people can also access my network if they want (doesn't have an internet connection) just 60GB+ of pirate goodies!

    I live in scouseland, and I'd only leave my door open if I wanted to get robbed.

     

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  63.  
    identicon
    Darren, Aug 23rd, 2007 @ 6:46am

    Re-routed to Highway Patrol

    Yeah, a buddy of mine recently wrote about an incident where he tried to report someone stealing his wifi. Apparently, you shouldn't call 911, or non-emergency police - you call the highway patrol? http://ickster.com/public-enemy-was-right-911-joke

     

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  64.  
    identicon
    boor little boy =[, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 4:07am

    RE: SOMEONE HELP ME

    NO ONE HAS ANSWERED MY QUESTION, WHAT SHOULD I DO!!!!!!!IS WHAT I DO WRONG?!!!!, IVE BEEN USEING THIS RANDOM WIRELESS NETWORK FOR 2 YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

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  65.  
    identicon
    Aranpal, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 4:11am

    !!

    GOD IS BISEXUAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

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  66.  
    identicon
    Scarz, May 15th, 2008 @ 10:38am

    Have you all really lost sight of the Issue?

    Believe me, the bickering is fascinating. Like Jerry Springer for attorneys.
    But what about the Big Deal? How do they know? All the arguments about invasion of privacy really pale out when you ask yourself how they can figure out what antenna is receiving the signal. Or Why they are looking in the first place? And if so; do they know what I watch on t.v. everyday? And if so; why are they interested. I smell a big fuckin rat and if we, as in the population of countries that claim not to take shit like that, that rat's movin in and gettin real comfy.

    Also, that unlocked house analogy is ridiculous. If any of tthese guys had infiltrated a hard drive it would be trespassing; by the book, done and done. An unsecured wireless signal is floating in the the air. My computer comes with a wireless modem. Case closed. Bullshit law.
    Take that Springer!

     

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  67.  
    identicon
    Guru, Jun 24th, 2008 @ 1:45pm

    Why it's different than a TV signal or loud stereo.

    There is one important difference between a TV signal and a WIFI hotspot. To receive a TV signal, all you have to do is turn on your TV, and pick up the signal that is already out there.Similarly, if someone is blaring their stereo, there is a big difference between listening to it, and reaching over to their receiver and setting the station to one of your choosing.

    To connect to the internet through WIFI, you have to send a signal to the modem requesting to be connected. Then you must send a request to the modem to ask for the web page or other information you want. It's not already floating out there. You have to send the signal to request that it be sent.

    One is passive, the other active. It's akin to the difference between watching your neighbor's TV through an open window, and buying a universal remote to switch the neighbor's TV to a channel of your choosing.

     

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  68.  
    identicon
    guru, Jun 24th, 2008 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Have you all really lost sight of the Issue?

    First, they cannot tell what channel your TV is tuned to, if you are picking up broadcast TV. If you're using cable, they can send the information through their cable. With satellite, they cannot tell unless you let them hook the box to your phone line.

    With a wireless router, and a laptop, they can tell you're using it because you actually have to request access, at which point the modem and laptop swap information, including some that identifies the laptop.

    If you're thinking about TV ratings like Neilsen's, they are actually survey books, filled out by participating families, from which overall usage is estimated. They CANNOT track your TV usage if you're watching broadcast TV with an antenna.

    As far as why they want to know, they want to know the demographics of the watchers, so that they can prgram advertising at the times it creates the biggest impact. Watch wheel of fortune, and the ads will actually let you know what age groups watch that show.

    Also, as I said in my other post, the wireless signal doesn't float in the air like TV. A carrier signal does, but to get internet, you must 1) connect, 2) request the specific page you want from the router.

     

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  69.  
    identicon
    Guru, Jun 24th, 2008 @ 2:01pm

    Re: its harsh

    "I live in scouseland, and I'd only leave my door open if I wanted to get robbed."

    So, if you DID leave your door open, and got robbed, you would say that the robber did nothing wrong, because you should have locked your door, and by not doing so, you gave him permission to steal your stuff? After all "hey, it's free", for the thief.

    Just like the bandwidth you were stealing when you posted.

     

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  70.  
    identicon
    plastic injection molding, May 5th, 2009 @ 7:30am

    Lava Bar at Hot Rocks

    The Lost Girls decided to soak up the benefits by ditching our bikini tops and smearing the clay-like mud across our chests and faces for maximum exposure. Not quite your typical luxurious spa experience, we felt like we were scaffolding applying war paint. Still, we were reluctant to climb out and rinse off with a cold shower after we’d reached the twenty-minute time limit. And I don’t think printing it was simply power of suggestion that had us feeling so rejuvenated after only a short dip.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  71.  
    identicon
    China Tent, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 11:33pm

    This is all very new to me and this article really opened my eyes.Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  72.  
    icon
    willbates (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 2:39am

    Come in....

    Sure, people should protect their networks but some of my friends think that if a network isn't protected they don't mind their neighbours using it! At the very most it should be a fine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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