Wireless Piggybacking Is Still Not A Problem

from the victimless-crime dept

For years, we've been pointing out that there's nothing unethical about borrowing an open wireless connection. Unfortunately, the stories on this subject just keep getting more hysterical. The latest example is a story from the UK that dubs the offense "wi-fi tapping" and reports that more than half of computer users have engaged in the practice, which it claims is illegal in the UK. Now, you might think that the fact that a majority of otherwise law-abiding Brits have engaged in piggybacking would be a reason to re-consider the law against it, but instead the story takes the opposite tack, sternly lecturing readers about the need to abstain from borrowing Internet access. Unfortunately, they never get around to explaining what's supposed to be wrong with it. They point out that people sometimes do illegal things with a borrowed wi-fi connection, but that's like saying you should never allow anyone to borrow your car because they might run someone over with it. And they insist that it's not a victimless crime because "A crime is perpetrated against the person who pays for the internet connection." But that's just circular logic. It's quite possible the owner of the network left it open on purpose, and in any event, if the piggybacker is just checking his email or engaging in light web surfing, the bandwidth being consumed is trivial. The "victim" is unlikely to even notice, and he certainly doesn't suffer any serious harm. Of course, there might be legitimate reasons, either security- or bandwidth-related, why someone would want to lock down his or her network. It's certainly worthwhile to educate users about the pros and cons of leaving your network open, and to provide them with directions for locking down their network if they wish to do so. But the police have much more important things to do than harassing people whose only crime is a compulsive need to check their email.


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    Haywood, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:05pm

    I'd leave mine open

    I'd leave mine open, But my nearest neighbor is too far away to tap it unless they had war driving antenna. I just disable that part of my router, I tried wireless, entirely too slow for me. I know that statement is like waving a red flag, so be it. I tried it and for normal surfing and mild LAN work it was ok, but when you try to transfer 700mb files over a LAN it chokes badly compared to a wire. I chokes badly compared to putting it on a thumb drive and just walking it over there.

     

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    Bob Jones, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:08pm

    Borrowing a car

    I note most people don't let just anyone borrow their car ... they let their trusted friends but thats it.

    Most people would also let a friend use their net, its still no reason to leave wireless open or your car doors for that matter.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:14pm

      Re: Borrowing a car

      If you leave your car doors open for anyone to use you're just asking for someone to steal it. Leaving your wireless open, no one can steal that. They just borrow the connection. It won't raise your bill. The only possible problem is that someone could try and download over-sized files and slow you down but good luck with a consistent connection from a distance, the odds of that are slim also.

       

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    sam, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:11pm

    tim....

    i pay for the service. you did not. the fact that it might be open, and you can tap/access it, is irrelevant. if i've chosen to open it for others, then you're completely right, and it's open for access.

    if i haven't meant for anyone to access it, you're taking advantage of something that i've paid without my permission.

    now, i know you're going to have a straw argument that deals with music/light/etc coming from my place... not the same. all you can do with music/light is deal with it in a passive manner. with the net, you are accessing "my" equipment.

    you either get it, or you don't. and if you don't get it, you surely shouldn;t mind, if i find where you live, and take advantage of some of your services, like tap into your electricity, or your water line, or the gas in your car?

    the only way you make this arguement, is to try to have a bait/swicth and claim that digital is different...

    peace.

     

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      Tim Lee, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:18pm

      Re:

      I think your decision to leave your network without a password is a prima facie invitation to make occasional, casual use of it. At least, that's what I intend when I leave my network open. If you don't want others to borrow your connection, you're free to set a password, or change the SSID to something like "Keep out."

      Even if you disagree on that point of etiquette, I hope you'll at least agree that the police have better things to be worrying about.

       

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        oregonnerd, Apr 12th, 2008 @ 6:30am

        Re: Re:open networks and etiquette

        That rather depends on the intelligence of the police (sometimes rather an oxymoron) where you are. I wouldn't dare have open accessibility because if it came from my IP or anything like it (child porn, whatever--we're talking about the freeloader here)...I'd be guilty. I have a misdemeanor for having epilepsy. So there's my heaviest argument against leaving a network open--the (non-existent) intelligence of the enforcing authorities.
        --Glenn

         

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      Chronno S. Trigger, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:22pm

      Re:

      I am going to say it. Digital is different. No bait and switch. That is where all the problems with the internet come from. There was never anything like it before. Nothing to compare it to.

      If you tap into my watter or electricity you raise my bill. You tap into my Internet you don't raise anything.

      If you really have a problem with someone "stealing" your Internet connection then lock your door, so to speak. It is so simple to add a wep key. If you have a problem with it and still leave your wireless open, it's your problem.

       

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    Relonar, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:19pm

    You don't need laws or regulations over something like this. If you want people to use your bandwidth leave it open.
    If you want to be unaffected by people using you bandwidth then upgrade your access point and add some QoS rules.
    If your using 100% of your bandwidth all the time or can't let others use your connection because of the terms of service from your ISP then add encryption and lock the access point down to only send and receive information from specific MAC addresses.
    And if your still having problems 3/4 inch lead plate will effectively block the power levels used by a wireless router

     

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    Garry, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:29pm

    Software to tell if anyone is using my network??

    What would be a good inexpensive or free program to tell if anyone/who is using my wireless network? I know I have all of the security passwords set and such but...

    The only WiFi that I use is from the TIVO to my PC. The wife’s PC and mine are behind a Netgear wire/wireless router and use Ethernet over power wire, with passwords set.

    Thanks for any help.

     

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      mkam, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 5:09am

      Re: Software to tell if anyone is using my network

      On your router configuration there should be some option for logging. On my router Linksys WRT54G, it is under Administration-->Logging. You can view the logs to see if anyone has connected to your router. Make sure you have a secure password for the router, not password or linksys.

       

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    phil, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:31pm

    Having an open wifi, is like putting a barrel of apples out on the side of a road that has a free sign hanging off of it.
    i war drive everyday after work, and i find atleast 40-50% of the AP's are unsecured

     

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    Bob Jones, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:36pm

    Raising costs

    In the UK at least, the location of this story, we have capped services (40GB of bandwidth, etc) and so yes, somebody using your connection does cost more.

    Lets not forget that not only do they have the ability to view illegal content, they have the ability to view YOUR CONTENT!

    Why? Because without password on the router (ie. encryption) your data is passing over radiowaves totally unecrypted! Remember most email services don't mandate HTTPS, you have to do it ... its too much work of the average use who reading this would think he should just leave his wifi open and he'll be safe ... until he ends up in jail on kiddy porn or terrorism charges and with his identity stolen (hmm, would that mean the person who stole his identity would end up in jail?)

     

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      Peet McKimmie (profile), Nov 16th, 2007 @ 5:14am

      Re: Raising costs

      Not only are services capped in the UK, but all domestic service contracts have a clause prohibiting the "sub-letting" or resale of bandwidth. So, even if open wi-fi wasn't a breach of criminal law it's still a breach of civil (contract) law.

       

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    Goji, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:37pm

    If I walk into your house, which was unlocked, and sleep on your couch without your permission is that wrong?

    If you enter my network without my permission, which was unlocked is that wrong?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 10:18pm

      Re:

      If I walk into your house, which was unlocked, and sleep on your couch without your permission is that wrong?
      If you have a sign out that says 'Open house, come on in' and then assign me the couch when I come in, then I'd say no.

       

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    Stealing is Stealing, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:42pm

    Flawed thinking

    I leave my front door open and you enter my house, watch my television and read my magazines You didn't 'use' much of the house and, assuming you didn't take any of my stuff, it didn't cost me anything. But my house still isn't yours to borrow just because I was careless. I think the same thinking is at play here.

    The problem is the determining the intent of the owner of the open wireless connection. Was he careless or simply doesn't care who uses his bandwidth? I don't see how you can conclude a 'theft' occurred unless the owner feels his property was misappropriated.

    However, should the owner cry 'thief' I don't see how you can defend using someone's paid services without permission. Theft is theft no matter how trivial the cost.

     

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      Goji, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:51pm

      Re: Flawed thinking

      That was my point.
      If you enter my home without my permission that is wrong no matter what the circumstances are.

      If you enter my home network without my permission that is wrong. Even if it doesn't cost my any extra money you are using my resources, which I am paying for, without my permission.

       

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        GeneralEmergency (profile), Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:06pm

        Re: Re: Flawed thinking

        Bzzzzzzzt. Wrong.

        Your first case example of physical breaking is ethically correct.

        Your extension of the physical ingress and physical theft analogy to an open wi-fi access point is logically flawed because you are broadcasting "information" beyond your property lines.

        A more accurate example/analogy is that your house is equipped with flood lights that illuminate my yard as well as yours. When you have a night-time party in your back yard and you turn on the electricty to those lights, it illuminates my back yard too, or maybe the alley way in between. Yes, you paid or are paying for the light, BUT, you have done NOTHING to make sure that the light does not propagate beyond your property. Your inaction to restrict propagation and therefore use of the light is implied consent to use. So, Yes, I may party in my back yard at night using your flood lights without ethical remorse.

        If you do not want others basking in your wi-fi network access, errect the shades by securing your access point transciever.

        Damn logic rookies.

         

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          Gojia, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: Flawed thinking

          True with the flood light analogy. But there is one critical difference. Using my light in your backyard will absolutely not impede the light I am receiving in my backyard.

          While using my network you are using part of my bandwidth. Therefor potentially impeding my use of the services that I am paying for. Not to mention what if you are doing something illegal like downloading music or movies? It is my public ip address that will be found, it will be my house they will come to first, it will be me that will be put through unnecessary B.S. because you want to use something for nothing.

          Using the extra light from my party will not do any of that.

           

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    Shun, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:44pm

    Digital is different, providers are not

    I agree with #7 to an extent. There have been many reports of people using "too much" of the internet and getting cut off by their ISP. Now, the owner of the wireless router may not be using the internet full time, but the bandwidth hog down the road might be.

    That's reason #1 to be on an encrypted network. Reason #2 is so that crackers can't snoop your traffic as it flies between your machine and the wireless access point. Lots of information flying through the air. Even encrypted packets can be cracked, given enough time and interest (also helps to have a zombie swarm dedicated to this type of thing).

    Car analogy: if you leave your car with the windows rolled down, keys in the ignition, and a big, hand-painted sign saying "Free Car" on the windshield, then don't expect to see your car again.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:49pm

      Re: Digital is different, providers are not

      Yes, carelessness can turn you into a victim but you can still have the guy who stole you car arrested.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 10:25pm

        Re: Re: Digital is different, providers are not

        Yes, carelessness can turn you into a victim but you can still have the guy who stole you car arrested.
        Except it wasn't stolen and if you tried to report it as such then you would probably be the one arrested for filing a false report. Go ahead, try it sometime. Let us know how it turns out for you.

         

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          oregonnerd, Apr 12th, 2008 @ 6:34am

          Re: Re: Re: Digital is different, providers are not

          ...Dam', but it was hard to get to a computer in jail...
          --Glenn
          8]

           

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    Bob, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:47pm

    It is fairly easy to control access

    "Just google it" TM
    and you find free apps that can limit bandwidth access limit time, even make them go through your home business' website before they browse.

    I understand the difference if there is a bandwidth cap in GB, but fairly rare here in the states.

     

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    Will Schanille, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:51pm

    Hmmm.

    Bandwith caps make this a whole different ballgame. This isn't leaving a barrel of apples next to the road with a "free" sign, this is leaving a barrel of apples next to your porch without a lid. Just cause it ain't nailed down, doesn't mean it's for you.
    In the UK, at least, they're not just paying for access to the pipes, but have limits on their usage. Here in the US, even the $5-$10/month dial-up is "unlimited." We're not paying for the water we're using, we're paying for an open faucet. If somebody dips into the puddle you leave, no biggie. But if somebody starts emptying your "barrel"(UK), that's theft, plain and simple.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 10:33pm

      Re: Hmmm.

      Bandwith caps make this a whole different ballgame. This isn't leaving a barrel of apples next to the road with a "free" sign, this is leaving a barrel of apples next to your porch without a lid.
      No, it isn't. The signal isn't constrained to your porch and no one enters your property to use it. Furthermore, by broadcasting an open invitation you are effectively hanging out a "free" sign as well. No one is forcing you to do that.

       

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    Beefcake, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:52pm

    There are no relevant metaphors

    It's still a matter of perception. In the U.S. it isn't yet a matter of legal or illegal, but moral or immoral. Morality is not automatically equated with legal or not.

    Right now, using someone's unlocked car without permission is considered immoral, and society as a whole has, through the legislative process, made it illegal as well. So society as a whole has determined it's wrong and put protections in place.

    This is not the case with Wi-Fi yet, so whether or not you use an unsecured wireless network is up to your own moral code. Some think it's okay, and some don't. Those who don't should think about securing it so others can't engage in the behavior they find offensive. At some point along the way, society will either side with the "don't use it" camp, or it won't, and based on that, the legality question will be answered.

     

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    Greg K Nicholson, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:54pm

    Hopefully,

    BT's recent deal with Fon will go some way towards correcting this misconception.

     

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    Bav, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 1:57pm

    Open means Open

    If a business has a sign out that reads "Open"...I come in the door expecting to in the least browse around.

    Same is true of finding an "Open" WiFi access point. I come in and browse around.

    If the owner doesn't want any unwanted "patrons"...turn the sign around, turn out the lights, and lock the doors.

    Simple...quit whining about being a victim of "stolen" bandwidth. It's not stolen. You're just being patronized.

     

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    Will Schanille, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 2:02pm

    More flawed thinking, I see...

    Having your front door open, with the screen door propped open too, doesn't mean somebody can walk into your house uninvited. Remember, while a business can turn it's open sign around, a homeowner should be able to leave his windows/doors open without worry. Sorry, My house is NOT a business.

     

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      Wille Schanille, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 2:05pm

      Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

      And for anyone that says "leaving a car unlocked is asking for it to be stolen," shame on you. Unless it has that "for free" sign, it's theft. Stealing is NEVER justifiable.

       

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      Bav, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 2:15pm

      Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

      Well...I hope your home is not a business. However should a home's doors and windows be open, it's not just the browsing type you'll be inviting. With a WiFi...it will be more often just a browser. Nothing lost, nothing stolen.

      btw...I have my home WiFi locked down like Alcatraz. :)

       

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      tek'a, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 4:07pm

      Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

      Will, hun.. I hope your being dense on purpose, cause anyone with such natural talent should have expired long ago, maybe from standing around staring at the sun.

      Your wi-fi coverage area is not your home, its not your property. these "free apples" are Not on your porch, they are in the middle of the street and they do indeed have a "free" sign on them.

      If you set up a home network with wi-fi and dont even bother to "put a lid on the barrel", much less get it out of the street, you are giving them away, free, gratis, and for nothing.

      This, of course, ignores many of the monitoring, limiting and restricting options built into your system that You are not taking advantage of or even looking into.

      The continuation of the free apple theme would be putting up a sign "please take only one" all the way through a nice little fruitstand, "apples $1 each".

      If you cant be bothered to make what is Literally the minimum effort, you will receive the minimum protection, IE, none.

      Of course, if you secure your wifi and someone rolls up, breaks in through the front window of your home, cracks your encryption and eats all your apples, despite all your strong locks, we are indeed in a different situation, not to mention horribly mixed and overextended metaphors.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 10:38pm

      Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

      Having your front door open, with the screen door propped open too, doesn't mean somebody can walk into your house uninvited.
      Try it sometime. Leave your doors all open and if someone wanders in just try to call the police and report a crime. The only one to be arrested will be you.

       

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        BTR1701, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 3:15am

        Re: Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

        > > Having your front door open, with the
        > > screen door propped open too, doesn't
        > > mean somebody can walk into your house
        > > uninvited.

        > Try it sometime. Leave your doors all open
        > and if someone wanders in just try to call
        > the police and report a crime. The only one
        > to be arrested will be you.

        As a cop myself, let me be the first to tell you that you're wrong. Homeowners can indeed leave their windows and doors open/unlocked and still validly report any unauthorized entry into their home as a crime-- specifically breaking and entering. The "breaking" part is commonly misunderstood as breaking a physical lock or window but that's not what it is. Under the law, it's illegal to break the close (or threshold) of someone's home without their permission. So even if the door is wide open, an intruder still breaks the close when they enter contrary to the homeowner's wishes.

        Bottom line, it's no defense to a breaking and entering charge to say, "Well, the windows were already open." And the police certainly aren't going to turn around and arrest the homeowner for calling the cops when she finds some strange man climbing through her window just because it was a nice day and she left it open to catch a breeze.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 4:58am

          Re: Re: Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

          As a cop myself, let me be the first to tell you that you're wrong.
          Yeah? Me too. But in the US. Now if someone calls me because someone is crawling in through their window that is one thing, but if they call me because they somebody walked through a wide open door that's another. If the person has been asked to leave and is refusing or acting in a threatening manner then I'll take action against them. If they didn't even ask the person to leave and the person didn't do any thing threatening (i.e. just innocently wandered through an open door) and they reported it as a break-in then I'll consider it case of false reporting.

           

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            BTR1701, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 7:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

            > and the person didn't do any thing threatening
            > (i.e. just innocently wandered through an open
            > door) and they reported it as a break-in then
            > I'll consider it case of false reporting.

            And you won't stand a chance of getting a conviction because it's *not* false reporting. Under a technical reading of the law, it's still breaking and entering (at least in my state it is). And if you knowingly arrest/charge someone for an offense they didn't commit just because you think they're being too sensitive or whatever, you've opened yourself up to legal liability-- civil at a minimum, criminal depending on your state's laws.

            As for not doing anything threatening, just entering a private residence uninvited, with no legal right to be there, is threatening enough in this day and age that no D.A. worth his degree would disagree.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:06am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

              Let's see, BTR1701... oh yeah, you're the guy who claims its perfectly legal to help terrorists blow things up as long as all you're doing is giving them directions on how to do it and get around security (due to the first amendment). I guess we better call off the hunt for Osama then. After all, he didn't fly those planes himself, he just directed the operation. Some how, I don't think I'll be trusting you for legal advice.

               

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                BTR1701, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:17am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: More flawed thinking, I se

                > oh yeah, you're the guy who claims its
                > perfectly legal to help terrorists blow
                > things up as long as all you're doing is
                > giving them directions on how to do it and
                > get around security (due to the first
                > amendment).

                I never said any such thing. Directing the operation (as Bin Laden did) would be easily prosecutable under long-standing conspiracy laws. Being a material participant in a plot and taking overt action to see it to fruition is very different than just talking about something in the abstract.

                > Some how, I don't think I'll be trusting you
                > for legal advice.

                I don't doubt it. You strike me as someone who only hears what he wants to hear and is dismissive of anyone who says otherwise, no matter how accurate they may be, as evidenced by the way you'd rather change the subject to something where you think you're right (terrorism), rather an address the point under discussion (breaking and entering).

                Classic tactic of someone whose argument is weak and who knows it.

                 

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    zcat, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 2:08pm

    stupid anaogies

    Here's an analogy for you..

    It's like broadcasting the availability of an internet connection on a public radio frequency specially designed for that purpose, listening for any replies and or requests to make use of that connection on the same public radio frequency, then answering with the exact details required to make a connection.

    A better comparison might be CB radio. If someone calls up over the CB to ask the weather report, and you look it up and answer them because out of habit you just answer any question anyone asks on CB, have they stolen anything from you? Have they done anything illegal?

     

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    pissoff, eh..., Nov 15th, 2007 @ 2:49pm

    all these analogies are bogus

    Open door, No. I don't have to enter your house to use your wireless. so I'm not breaking into your property.

    Using your electricity or cable TV, No again. I don't have to trespass and plug into your outlet or your cable to use your wireless.

    Passive use of light, music, etc? I'm passively receiving your broadcasted radio signals. Keep your damn radio waves away from my tinfoil hat!

    Unlocked car with keys? Not. I'm not sitting in your car, or turning on the engine, or driving away. Again, I'm nowhere near your car. I'm down the block and I'll not even get out of mine.

    I don't snoop around your home systems, I'm just passin' thru.

    My grandpa taught me a relevant saying: "Life's tough when you're a dumbass."

     

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    Barrenwaste, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 2:50pm

    Piggybacking

    In the area of my business you can't help but piggyback. There are so many unsecured users that's it's almost impossible to be sure who's you are using at any given moment. I log on and half the time it's from the college guys who rent the apartment above my store. How do you regulate in such a situation? I pay for my wireless, they pay for thiers. The buildings to the left and right, behind and across the road are the same. Nothing is lost in these cases, and there is no law that they can break that will reflect on me. In order for authorities to prosecute me there will have to be either illegal content or evidence of such on my computer, regardless of what traffic they monitor.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:15pm

    "But the police have much more important things to do than harassing people whose only crime is a compulsive need to check their email."

    Really? Well then I guess your fortuante to not live in an Area where the majority of police activity is spent on harassing the public over trival "crimes."

     

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    Clueby4, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:19pm

    Not your Wirelesss

    I know some of you are slow, but wireless signals use PUBLIC SPACE!

    I will repeat it for the even slower of you; wireless signals use PUBLIC SPACE!

    Also the obtuse analogies of cars, houses, etc are inappropriate, and no car use of roads doesn't count. A better analogy would be considering it illegal to hear a conversation the was being broadcast thru a PA (public address heh) system.

    Ignorance of the law isn't an effective defense but ironically the laws ignorance of reality, common sense, and the technology seem to be hypocritically unacknowledged.

    The same feeble little chuckleheaded logic that goes into email disclaimers is being recycled here.

     

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    claire rand, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:22pm

    power switch

    you can stop a lot of leaches, and have a very secure network.. turn the router off when not using it.

    if your network is not reliable i dare say the baddies will go somewhere else.

    either that or have a router with QOS software, leave it opne, but limited in bandwidth.

     

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    atomatom, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Flawed thinking

    Wi-fi is NOT passive. You don't recieve without transmitting like light. When you request a web page over my Wifi, your computer transmits a signal to MY router in MY house. If all you want to do on my wifi is recieve the signals coming out of my house, you're welcome to, they won't do you any good. However, what you are actually doing is sending a signal remotely to my router and telling it to do something. That is, plain and simple, hijacking my equipment.

    If you want a light-in-the-backyard analogy, listen to this one. I put up a number of lights that are controlled remotely. You buy a remote that works just like mine and tell one of the lights to turn around and shine into your yard. Oh look, now the light you wanted is suddenly coming into your yard, but you can't help it, it's just shining of its own accord. Dumbass.

    I welcome anyone who wants to use my open wifi, although anyone who can't authenticate is not going to enjoy their browsing experience...

     

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      Bav, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:29pm

      Re: Re: Re: Re: Flawed thinking

      Re: atomatom:

      WiFi signals don't "turn around" remotely...they simply exist.

       

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      Jim, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 9:53pm

      Re: Re: Re: Re: Flawed thinking

      "Wi-fi is NOT passive. You don't recieve without transmitting like light. When you request a web page over my Wifi, your computer transmits a signal to MY router in MY house. If all you want to do on my wifi is recieve the signals coming out of my house, you're welcome to, they won't do you any good. However, what you are actually doing is sending a signal remotely to my router and telling it to do something. That is, plain and simple, hijacking my equipment."

      Ah but you ARE sending signals to them to receive information.

      For the light-in-the-backyard analogy. This simply dosn't work. Because the person using the light DID NOT have to buy a remote to make the light turn to his yard. The person using the light simply left the light shining on your yard. The owner receiving the light didn't have to do anything to receive it. This works the SAME way with wireless networks. Many operating systems make it so simple to connect to wireless networks that if they are not secured properly you don't even have to try to connect to them. The computer will do it by itself if the connection is present. So I go to wal-mart. Buy a computer and put it in my house. This computer happens to have built in wireless capabilities. I turn my computer on and find that there is an internet connection present. I decide to use it. I made no special attempt to steal your internet. It was offered up to me, for all I know you did it on purpose. As a matter of fact your radio waves tresspassed onto my property. If you don't want me using it, then keep them in your walls, or make them unusable. It CAN be done.

       

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    atomatom, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:41pm

    "WiFi signals don't "turn around" remotely...they simply exist."

    Huh? How does that make any kind of sense? How do you think the wifi router knows to ask the modem for the webpage you want to look at? Through the magical aether or by your computer sending it a signal?

    The router sends out a signal, your computer sends out a signal. When your computer asks the router for a page, the router sends the page. That is your computer sending a signal into my house, to my equipment, telling it what to do. It doesn't "simply exist".

    "Using my light in your backyard will absolutely not impede the light I am receiving in my backyard."

    Well, if there are three lights shining, and one of them turns away to shine somewhere else, that's 33% of the light. In wifi terms, that's 33% of the bandwidth.

     

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    Bav, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 3:49pm

    Re: atomatom

    I suppose in the sense that the WiFi signal is like shade from a tree...it's just there. Anyone not securing their WiFi signal is in essence BROADCASTING their signal, thus making it public once it reaches beyond their property limits.

    I would agree that piggybacking WiFi from a neighbor is wrong if one is using it for illegal purposes. My whole "argument" is whether using it for email and simple browsing is so wrong. IMHO...it's not.

     

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    atomatom, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 4:03pm

    "I suppose in the sense that the WiFi signal is like shade from a tree...it's just there. Anyone not securing their WiFi signal is in essence BROADCASTING their signal, thus making it public once it reaches beyond their property limits."

    What people are ignoring is that Wifi is not just there. If people treated Wifi like shade from a tree, all they could do is recieve it. All they could do is look at the signals being broadcast, and that's all they would get. And it'd be useless to them, it would be my traffic, not theirs. However, once they begin using the connection to make their own requests (web browsing, email, etc.), they are no longer just recieving it. It's not "just there" anymore. They're talking to my router and giving it commands. Instead of just recieving the signal coming out of my house, they're sending one into my house. I don't get how people fail to understand that an internet connection is a conversation, it's two-way, you don't just get the signal but you send one of your own.

     

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      Bav, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:08am

      Re: Receiving it... to atomatom :)

      "If people treated Wifi like shade from a tree, all they could do is recieve it."

      So sitting under the tree is "stealing" their shade? That's receiving and using.

      I know there is talk to and from your router. If you don't want your signal stolen, don't broadcast your signal.

      I don't fail to understand the internet connection is a conversation...you fail (the broadcaster of the signal not you specifically) to understand your irresponsibility in not securing that which spills outside of your property boundaries.

      And to the person that mentioned he uses his neighbor's pool and BBQ...that's entirely different. If you do, you must physically cross into your neighbor's property. You've violated their boundaries. If they've built their pool in such a way that it extends onto your property...then by building it that way they've essentially said you can swim in it too...at the very least swimming on only your side.

      It all boils down to security. If you're the type that feels the signal spilling past your property boundaries is YOUR signal...secure it so it remains YOUR signal.

       

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    Shun, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 4:12pm

    OK, let's try to get a handle on this

    Perhaps there is such a wide chasm between the "Wifi wants to be free" crowd and the "That's my bandwidth you're stealing" crowd because many folks believe that you must have intentionally left your access point open, while others believe that an open AP is a sign of carelessness.

    The problem is, there's no clear etiquette that allows you, as the AP owner, to signal to the world "Go Ahead, Use My Bandwidth." We've taken the presence of the open AP itself as a "Free-for-All" sign.

    Considering the huge number of wireless AP's already out in the wild, perhaps education is the only answer. The horses have already bolted from the stable, and it'll take a while to corral them again. Selling wireless equipment with encryption enabled by default ought to help, but will probably result in more calls to tech support.

    Maybe a nice propaganda campaign: "If you don't secure your wireless, you're promoting terrorism and pedophilia." That ought to lock a few doors. Either way, we should be looking for ways to prevent problems, rather than go after offenders after the fact.

     

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    David, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 4:16pm

    Free wifi

    And here I am with 2 AP's, one that does my main routing and encrypts everything with WPA, and another one that is open but on a different VLAN, with slightly limited bandwidth straight to the Internet. I just leave it sitting there broadcasting an SSID called "free_courtesy_709_lima", which is my address, I figure it's a nice compromise. I'd love to see someone try to somehow get upset at me for providing a free service like that. Or even see someone get in trouble for using it... I'll stick up for 'em.

     

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      Gojia, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 4:39pm

      Re: Free wifi

      If you are allowing people to do so I have no problems. You provideing wifi freely, that is an issue between you and your isp and the terms of service.

      I have problems when somebody uses a service that I am paying for for my personal use without my permmision. My signal my be leaving my property into the public domain but you are sending a signal into my property and then getting onto my network. I have the right to decide who is on and who is not. Just because a person does not know how to secure a network does not give a person the right to use it. Just because I leave my bike in the park unsecured does not give you the right to use it.

       

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      Gojia, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 4:39pm

      Re: Free wifi

      If you are allowing people to do so I have no problems. You provideing wifi freely, that is an issue between you and your isp and the terms of service.

      I have problems when somebody uses a service that I am paying for for my personal use without my permmision. My signal my be leaving my property into the public domain but you are sending a signal into my property and then getting onto my network. I have the right to decide who is on and who is not. Just because a person does not know how to secure a network does not give a person the right to use it. Just because I leave my bike in the park unsecured does not give you the right to use it.

       

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    Gojia, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 4:44pm

    Definition of steal

     

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    Will Schanille, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 4:59pm

    Missed point:

    In the US, there are almost no ISPs that have bandwidth caps, not even dial-ups. Well, no bandwidth caps, WITHIN REASON. I'm sure the few folks who got their service revoked were using unreasonably large amounts of bandwidth. Therefore, there is no legal, or even moral, reason to NOT use an open WiFi connection.

    BUT

    In the UK, at least according to someone who lives/claims to live there, there are bandwidth caps. Therefore, the internet is no longer just there. It's a utility. If there are usage limits, it IS the same as stealing electricity, water, cable, what ever. An open AP (or however the term is used) is no longer an excuse. The only issue at this point is, was there implied permission beyond "It was open!"? If not, it IS the same as "taking the apples out of the barrel next to my porch". You can see the apples from the sidewalk, but that doesn't mean you can have one. Even if you can reach them from where you're standing and not go into my yard, they aren't yours. But if there's an SSID like David's up there, it's fair game.

     

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      Gojia, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 5:22pm

      Re: Missed point:

      In the US there may not be any crimnal legality to it. That's to say that the authorities cannot do anything about it.

      But if I can prove that a specific individual were using my wifi connection without my permision I could sue you in civial court, for not getting my permmission first. Just like if my bike were left in the park and someone used it without my permmission I could sue them too.

      There might not be a "crime" in the scence of going to prison, but there is certainly civil liability.

       

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        Will Schanille, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 5:47pm

        Re: Re: Missed point:

        But isn't that the whole point? In the UK, it IS a crime (you can get arrested for it with out the involvement of the one the "crime" was committed against, the router owner). They're picking up guys on the street, surfing the web. With, I might add, apparently no proof that they WERE using a connection without permission. I think most of the outrage at this point is because the idea might spread, but for no reason. There aren't bandwidth caps, so it isn't a utility. I also (naively, I guess) assumed that there wouldn't be any wrongdoing involved in borrowing a connection. In other words, the borrower WOULDN'T be using it as their primary (would somebody really buy a laptop in order to surf the net, but not have their own?), or for file sharing, or kiddie porning it up. That would be basic courtesy, right? lol

        And yes, you CAN sue about anything, but you A: shouldn't unless you can prove REAL damages (lost data, etc.) B: most likely would lose because, face it, an open WiFi connection is at the least perceived to have permission tacked onto it. The issue is, is there or isn't there? Until there is an established etiquette (such as the free_courtesy thing), it has to be established on a case by case basis, which is a really, really bad idea. Way too much room for miscommunication and misunderstanding.

         

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    Le Blue Dude, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 5:20pm

    Ahem

    It is... not right to take advantage of a service for which you have not paid. Unless someone else who paid for the service gives it to you.

    However: It's one thing to have an internet connection, which you are paying for, then to go elsewhere, and take advantage of someone's wireless to browse the internet while you are in the elsewhere area. I'm sure almost everyone agrees that there is little wrong with this. It's like being at a friend's and getting a drink from their tap.

    It's an entirely different matter to not purchases an internet connection, and to only use your neighbor's. This is more like tapping their pipes for free water.

    And it's a third thing to p2p or width hog over someone else's wireless. This is like tapping their pipes for the amount of water needed to run a waterpark

    And its a fourth thing to kiddy-porn over someone else's wireless. This is like tapping their water, and then using said water to dump toxic waste, letting them get blamed for the waste emissions.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 6:08pm

    Apple Analogy

    There is a classic example of this used in law classes. If your apple trees grow over the fence and have apples in my yard, are they free for me to take?

     

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      Will Schanille, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 6:26pm

      Re: Apple Analogy

      Does your apple tree have infinite apples (no bandwidth cap) or just one season's worth at a time (bandwidth cap)? I'm trying to point out, but I think I keep on messing it up, what happens to "bandwidth tappers" in the UK doesn't seem to have much, if any, bearing on what is legal/moral in the US.
      I think a good question to ask now is:

      Are there multiple, competing ISPs, or just one (like the way it's BBC1, BBC2, etc)? If there's one standard ISP, then there may actually be one standard bandwidth cap. But, and it makes more sense this way, do SOME of the ISPs have caps, like in the US? (and are they in the majority?)

       

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        Just an Englishman, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 12:55am

        Re: Re: Apple Analogy

        Yes most ISPs have a bandwidth cap. Those that don't cost more (AKA economics). So using my bandwidth is stealing my resources. Simple isn't it.

         

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    Walter Dnes, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 8:09pm

    What about other open services?

    Just because you forgot to lock your door, is it OK for me to walk into your house and help myself to the beer in your fridge? And while we're at it, how does war-driving differ from all those worms scanning for open ports on my system?

    Simply sitting there passively listening (like listening to cellphone calls with a scanner) is legally doubtfull to begin with. Actually issuing orders to someone else's hardware without explicit permission is unauthorized access or theft of service. And I assume you wouldn't mind explaining to authorities why several gigs of kiddy porn were downloaded via your account.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:12am

      Re: What about other open services?

      Just because you forgot to lock your door, is it OK for me to walk into your house and help myself to the beer in your fridge?

      Did you have a sign in the yard that said "Open House. Free Beer in the Fridge" left from a block party you had a week ago but "forgot" to take down?

       

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    Jim Furie, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 3:54am

    Wireless Piggybacking Is Still Not A Problem

    I think the thing worth remembering is, although it may be a small amount of bandwidth or as you say innocent e-mail collection all it would take is one download to cause the owner of the open node no end of problems for example take the RIAA situation in the states, where it would appear all you need to prosecute is a IP address or user name or screen dump.

    Just a thought.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 5:06am

    Property

    just because i dont have a fence or sign up doesnt mean you can set foot on my property. its my property and you dont have a right to use it by walking across it. thats illegal and ill have you arrested if you do.

     

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    Patrick, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 7:23am

    Wireless Piggybacking Is Still Not A Problem

    I use my neighbors pool when they're not around, and I sometimes barbeque on their grill. It's cheaper than buying my own. I fugure if they didn't want people to use these things they would build a bigger fence or put up signs saying that they got these things for their own use only.. So...no signs and only a 3 foot fence can only mean that they intended for me to go for a dip while they're at work.

     

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      Bav, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:31am

      Re: Wireless Piggybacking Is Still Not A Problem

      "I use my neighbors pool when they're not around, and I sometimes barbeque on their grill. It's cheaper than buying my own. I fugure if they didn't want people to use these things they would build a bigger fence or put up signs saying that they got these things for their own use only.. So...no signs and only a 3 foot fence can only mean that they intended for me to go for a dip while they're at work."

      Hardly the same thing. You've physically crossed into their property.

      A WiFi signal has crossed INTO YOUR property.

      It's like (to add another analogy...ahahah) their unleashed dog roaming and coming into your yard and you petting the dog and playing with it then the owners getting upset that you played and pet their dog when it's THEIR DOG! Yet the dog was out, unleashed, and unsecured.

      :)

       

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    Daniel J. Honie, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:19am

    I use my neighbors pool when they're not around, and I sometimes barbeque on their grill. It's cheaper than buying my own. I fugure if they didn't want people to use these things they would build a bigger fence or put up signs saying that they got these things for their own use only.. So...no signs and only a 3 foot fence can only mean that they intended for me to go for a dip while they're at work.
    Especially since they built part of their pool in your back yard. Maybe if they didn't want you to use it they should have kept it in their own yard. But that engraved invitation they sent you pretty much sealed the deal.

     

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