Using Your Neighbor's WiFi

CMP’s Mitch Wagner is defending the fact that he used a neighbor’s WiFi while visiting his father. Apparently, readers wrote in to tell him what an evil person he was. I know the feeling. When I mentioned doing something similar on a panel discussion at Pulver’s Wireless Summit last year, I was practically booed of the stage. Wagner defends himself well, but can do an even better job: there simply is no stealing going on whatsoever. For something to be stolen, it needs to be gone. The original owner of the WiFi access point still has all their bandwidth. Wagner just downloaded his email and did a little surfing — he wasn’t clogging their access in any way. No one was charged any more money. Wagner didn’t trespass. He didn’t break any doors. He sat in his father’s apartment and his computer caught what was freely flowing through the air. And, in fact, there are still plenty of people who believe that sharing their WiFi is a good thing. Instead, everyone jumps in to say that they’re somehow stupid. Certainly, if they don’t take security precautions, it is a risk. However, a well setup home access point can be both secure and open to the public. Obviously, people need to be aware of the security risks of leaving their WiFi open — but accessing an open WiFi network to grab your email and surf a few web pages shouldn’t be considered illegal or evil. It should be considered one of the nice benefits of a wireless society.

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