Fined For Using Someone Else's WiFi

from the where's-the-loss? dept

While many, many people still feel there’s absolutely nothing wrong with piggybacking on someone’s open WiFi, the police don’t always agree. We’ve had a few stories in the past about people getting arrested for using someone else’s WiFi, or even threatening to arrest people for simply using a cantenna. The latest such story, sent in by Steve, involves a guy in Illinois who was fined $250 for “theft of services” after a police officer spotted him sitting in a car, using the open WiFi of a non-profit agency in the middle of the night. The police go on about how you could get a year in jail for this. Again, though, it’s not clear why this is a crime. If the guy were trespassing, that’s one thing. However, if he’s sitting on public property, using an open WiFi signal that went beyond the property boundaries… it should have been up to the agency to secure their WiFi. Also, there’s no way anyone can claim any real loss in this situation. It was the middle of the night. No one else was using the broadband connection. The police are quoted warning others to beware that they, too, can get arrested and spend a year in jail if spotted using a laptop in a car. Can’t wait until someone using an EVDO or HSDPA cellular data card in their car gets arrested by a police officer who doesn’t recognize the difference.


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Comments on “Fined For Using Someone Else's WiFi”

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365 Comments
Pierre Jauvin says:

WiFi (not encripted signal use)

The behavior of the police in this country (US) is becoming more and more like it was behind the iron curtain in the old days! If someone is broadcasting a WiFi signal (un-encripted) that person , obviously want any one to use it. That why all wifi system have the capability to be encripted. I think that the police should have better thing to do than this. Like , if they are concerned about it; how about giving seminar to the public to make them aware that they can protect themselves if they are concerned of giving free signal to anyone being able to receive it. Most of the French quarter in New Orlean has free WiFi supplied by the city to promote tourism and help their citizens.

John C. Sanders says:

Arrest for piggybacking on open wireless network

As I see it there are three possibilities here. 1) The arresting officer had too much time on his hands and is one of those officers who engage in the sport of arresting or ticketing people for little known (or enforced) technical violations of law. I knew a cop who ticketed a horse rider for allowing the horse to walk on a paved highway without having rubber horseshoes.; 2) The police believe, correctly or incorrectly, that the person they arrested was committing or about to commit another crime, like burglary, and had insufficient evidence to charge him with that other offense; or 3) When questioned the guy was uncooperative and/or evasive or otherwise pissed the officer off.

mach1 says:

Re: What about...

I agree with argo747, This is getting ridicules with the police arresting anyone and them being wrong, they have no technical knowledge, so it should be up to the law makers to research this issue and come up with laws if needed, but then they come up with too many laws and instead of seeing how laws that are in place now are working.

giafly says:

This sort of thing used to be legal

“In 1948, only 10 percent of the American population had seen a television set. This didn’t mean that 10 percent of us owned a TV….most people did their viewing in a public location, such as a department store, tavern, or store window. 3 million people watched the final game of the 1947 World Series on TV, and 90 percent of them watched in a public location.”

Lisa’s Nostalgia Cafe

[BTW Mike: why is the word “false” at the top left of the comment page?]

Mario (user link) says:

Lame

Using the same pretext, the cops should arrest people watching TV programs from outside a TV retail store, because the passer bys would be stealing the store’s paid Satellite TV service.

Or worst, cops should start arresting everyone watching a Baseball game from outside the stadium, like Wrigley Field for example, because that game is property of the MLB and they would be stealing the service MLB is charging for it to everyone inside.

It’s a lame world, isn’t it.

Scott says:

Re: Lame

Key difference in your analogy? One way interaction in watching TV, the signal is sent out and no return is performed.

“That WAP is sending its signals across the dudes antenna”

WiFi requires bi-directional communication, if he were just intercepting something like streaming there would be no theft of services. He actively went back across their property to get access.

jboomgaa says:

Re: Re: Lame

Though I agree with it being the responsibility of businesses and users to secure their own networks if they do not want others to assume it is for public use, I think some of these analogies are getting out of hand.

Scott put it correctly when he said that using wifi is bi-directional. You are requesting something over the other person’s network, not simply picking up information already being sent.

Thus analogies such as listening in to other’s radio programming and tv’s make no sense, because yes it would be wrong if instead of just listening to that persons tv or radio you reached over and started changing the station

YouGottaBeKiddinMe says:

Ummm...Panera Bread, anyone?

I was in Florida and needed to check my e-mail. Found a Panera Bread, I drove up to the parking space right in front, opened my laptop and VOILA!!….I’m in.

So let me get this right….if I did this in the middle of the night while the store is closed, and presuming they don’t shut down their equipment, now I’m stealing bandwith?

Nnnnnnoooooo….don’t think soooo….

I would get a good lawyer, the kind that really likes skewering stupid interpretations like this…

BlueDribble says:

Re: Ummm...Panera Bread, anyone?

I believe you have this incorrect: In the case of Panera bread (at least all I’ve been to that have WIFI) you have a screen to which you have to accept their terms and conditions to get to the net.

This IS a contract between you and Panera allowing you to use their WIFI. Doesn’t matter if you do this at 3am, or 3pm, when the store is open or closed: If you go thru their sign-on screen, they have permitted you to use their net. There cannot be one of these “You used their WIFI illegally” in this case.

ChronoFish (user link) says:

Fine the WAP

The police have it wrong.

That WAP is sending its signals across the dudes antenna.

The Wireless Access Provider (the non-profit group in this case) should be fined/arrested/jailed/etc for causing a public disturbance. I mean what if the guy is only 14? They are forcing access to X-rated content on an innocent under-aged computer user!

-CF

Andy says:

How about some personal responsibility

The guy using the WiFi connection probably didn’t know anything about the non-profit organizations terms of service regarding their connection with their ISP. He didn’t know if they had a limit on how much data they could upload/download each month before extra charges might be incurred. And he didn’t care – so he was stealing, even if nobody else is using it at the same time. Many people say it’s the owners problem for not securing their WiFi connection, how about the people with laptops who connect to a WiFi signal that they have no reasonable expectation is a public service (obviously doesn’t include the likes of Starbucks and Panera Bread) take responsibilty for their own actions instead of blaming other people. If I’m at home and I don’t pay for broadband access because I’m to cheap, then if my laptop finds an open connection I’m pretty sure it’s not mine to use as I please.

lilwip says:

Re: How about some personal responsibility

That is such a lame arguement. By your arguement, if I am sitting in my apartment connecting to MY wireless connection and my Windows XP Laptop decides that my neighbors unencrypted linksys has a better signal and uses it, then I could be arrested for this? Or if I am on my porch? In my Driveway? You should secure your access point if for no other reason than to SECURE your NETWORK!!!!!!

Andy says:

Re: Re: How about some personal responsibility

Exactly – it’s your computer and your using it but you propose that it’s not your resposibility to connect to your WiFi ? People compain about people not securing their network, but how do you know there isn’t a reason they haven’t secured it – doesn’t mean they keep it open for free loaders.

Perhaps they are to computer illiterate to secure their network, or perhaps the free loaders or to computer illiterate to connect to the right service, or just to lazy, or are just to cheap to get their own connection ?

You’re the one using the computer – you’re the one connecting to the internet – how about accepting this as your problem and not the person who didn’t secure their network. It’s called taking responsibility for your own actions rather then infering your right to access the internet because of the inaction of someone else.

Overcast says:

Re: Re: Re:2 How about some personal responsibi

Okay – accept responsibility.

You opened up your network to the public.

Case closed.

-CF

I must say – I have to agree completely. Either that or the business should have posted a sign stating the the open WiFi access they were BROADCASTING isn’t free.

Afterall, if he found the network, I’d say there’s a 98% chance that WiFi network was broadcasting….

Typcially – when something’s broadcasted – such as TV, Radio, etc – it’s pretty well considered public domain. Afterall, could a radio station sue you for tuning in if you don’t have their express persmission to do so? hmm – again, public airwaves, broadcasting….

If he knew the Network ID, and Security strings and “hacked” in, it would be different.

The business was broadcasting an open, unsecured WiFi connection. In all seriousness, he could simply use the defense that he thought it was WiFi provided by the city (There’s a few cities that do this now and even more working on it). Of course – that all depends on what he said to the officer at the time of arrest, of course 🙂

Andrew says:

Re: Re: Re:2 How about some personal responsibi

I’m so tired of people on sites like this putting in their “definitive” arguments (usually a badly misspelled run-on sentence with no clear point) and saying, “end of story” or “case closed.”

Yes, this issue raises some strong sentiments, but in legal concerns it’s just not clear cut yet. I think their are dual responsibilities. Yeah, that non-for-profit org should have locked down their access. That doesn’t make it okay for some jerk to use that internet even though it may cost that org money.

Bottom line… I have solved this… no more comments… The End… Period.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 How about some personal responsibi

If I fail to lock my front door and someone comes in and takes my television, is that stealing?

If I fail to lock my network and someone comes and jacks all my bandwidth, is that stealing?

The .net’s not exactly Mayberry, but taking something that someone else paid for without their permission is stealing, whether it’s bandwidth or that flatscreen.

Tigger says:

Re: Re: Re: How about some personal responsibility

Wha??? OK, you’re saying that if You’re too illiterate or stupid to “secure” your cash in your pocket and your cash lands in the Wal-mart parking lot it’s MY responsibility to not take it? Is it stealing for me to pick up a 10 spot that’s left in a public area, unsecured? I’m not talking about morality here, but legality. If it’s valuable to you, it’s your responsibility to secure it.

TxOcelot says:

Re: How about some personal responsibility

I agree, and of course the 3 million spam e-mails (anolitical assumption based on numerous other stories like this, of drive by spam dumping on open WIFI connections) he was sending out over THEIRr broadband connection wouldn’t get them blackballed on some lists, there by making their own non-profit but (presumed) good meaning e-mails all for naught. Good for the cops for doing their job and letting the court system decide if he was simply surfing to pass some boredom on another groups dime, or if he was dumping more crap in our inboxes.

DJ Twiztid says:

Re: How about some personal responsibility

I think the FCAA say it best as most of the government when they say air waves are free and can not be charged for it. You can scramble the signal and charge people for use of your equipment to make it usable again. But being fined and arrested for something the government deems free to the public is not right. I have a WiFi spot here in town and I make damn sure there’s a WPA on it. If someone hacks into my WiFi then there’s an issue of invasion of privacy. WiFi is nothing more then radio waves sent out by the wireless AP. It is no different then your car picking up a radio station or your TV picking up a TV station. It all works off of the same radio frequency. It is the owner of the WiFi to make sure it’s secure. Just a little insight from a PC Tech that was trained in tv and radio communications.

Anonymous Coward says:

OPEN wifi at MOST McDonald's Locations

This is no different than bringing your personal computer laptop into the office where you work in, and opening up a web browser on it during your lunch break…

Sure, the open wifi in your office was intended for work only – but now since you are using that open wifi on your personal computer, it is a crime… or at least in comparison to what this article quotes.

BTW, there are open wifi hot-spots at just about all McDonalds across the USA. Would it make a difference if I just parked my car infront of the MD’s and opened my laptop’s wifi… or would I have to purchase a $.99 burger first, for this to be alright…. and then there is the case of doing this at 3am and using the excuse of, “I was just waiting for them to open in a few hours.

Alex says:

Re: OPEN wifi at MOST McDonald's Locations

“Sure, the open wifi in your office was intended for work only – but now since you are using that open wifi on your personal computer, it is a crime… or at least in comparison to what this article quotes.”

Actually, according to the Sarbanes Oxley Law (SOX) it is a crime if the company is a financial company. You could get in trouble, and the company could get sued for failing SOX compliancy!

Anonymous Coward says:

OPEN wifi AT MOST McDonald's Locations

This is no different than bringing your personal computer laptop into the office where you work in, and opening up a web browser on it during your lunch break…

Sure, the open wifi in your office was intended for work only – but now since you are using that open wifi on your personal computer, it is a crime… or at least in comparison to what this article quotes.

BTW, there are open wifi hot-spots at just about all McDonalds across the USA. Would it make a difference if I just parked my car infront of the MD’s and opened my laptop’s wifi… or would I have to purchase a $.99 burger first, for this to be alright…. and then there is the case of doing this at 3am and using the excuse of, “I was just waiting for them to open in a few hours.

lime says:

Re: by Spike on Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 10:42am

I think that whole line of logic is ridiculous, it is the responsibility of the equipment’s owner to ensure that the signal does not 1.) waft to unauthorized areas, and 2.) be secured. Should either or neither of those criterium be met, then they have no room to press charges or complain. If this was something that was worth protecting from carte blanche usage, then perhaps some forethought should have come into play PRIOR to it’s actiavation. Otherwise I’d start going after the non-profit that was mis-appropriating funds by egregious incompetence in the IT department.

Anonymous Coward says:

if he wasnt allowed on it IT SHOULDNT HAVE BEEN OPEN, im tired of seeing stories where people are negilgent with data security or access secuirty and someone “steals” it and gets in trouble.. it should be the responcibility of the wap owner to NOT LEAVE IT OPEN period, end of story

it isnt illegal to use something that is offered freely in public..

the TV analogy is very good, if you leave your TV on, and viewable by anyone, you cant go arresting people who watch it! its madness… turn your damn TV off. or face it away from the windows

Andy Landen says:

Use the correct analogy

Let’s take the wireless analogy to the wired domain and see how it looks. Cable services are delivered to a home. The owner splits the signal through a wire (let’s say CAT-5e, to make this analogy simple) which he directs out of the door, off of his property, and into his neighbor’s house. His neighbor sees the cable and connects his router to it, so that all of his computers and TVs have access to it. Who is at fault (if anyone)? Wired or wireless, the analogy holds the same conditions: services offered to one person are delivered into the personal property of another and are accepted.

Andy says:

Re: Use the correct analogy

But that’s analogy does not work as it requires some effort on the part of the cable subscriber to take the cable over to the neighbors house. And so you could infer that they are giving you permission to use their cable connection.

Not securing their WiFi connection does not require any effort on the part of the cable subscriber, whether that be by choice or through ignorance – you should not infer that you have permission to use their cable connection.

Now if they went to the effort to walk next door to say ‘Please help yourself to my WiFi connection’ – now you could infer that it was ok to use their WiFi from that 🙂

Dan says:

What's Next?

What about the satellite radio subscriber who listens to thier music outside? Am I to be arrested if it’s turned up too loud, and I hear it?

What about if I stop by a store window and use the light spilling out from thier front display to read my ‘s display?

“Excuse me sir, I need to take you in for using thier light, while listening to her XM radio…”

Yikes!

C. Smith Run says:

Hold both sides accountable...

Why, in this day and age, shouldn’t the company be just as responsible for their inaction, as the User is for his action?

There is no excuse for not securing your network, and there is no excuse for using a service if you are unsure of your privledges to it.

In the end though, the techs in the company should have more knowledge about this than your average internet user, therefore, they should have tied up their WAP if they didn’t want it wandering off it’s territory.

Anonymous Coward says:

wifi is not just used for laptops....

Other uses for WIFI….

Lets arrest all the people who use their WIFI enabled Pocket-PCs in public – since obviously they are not paying for that WIFI service.

And what about the kids and their NintendoDS or PSP handhelds who just happen to be in a WIFI Hot-Spot and are playing online – can you be absolutely sure that they didnt pre-pay for that service in that exact spot where they are located?

Lets arrest everyone with a WIFI enabled device who is not at home, on their own home network… because they are obviously stealing bandwidth when they are anyplace else.

Jimmy Bear Pearson (user link) says:

More questions than answers...

Articles like this seem to be more frequent of late on news spots. I don’t think someone should be fired unless they are doing something that is explicitly against the law. However…

Reading the comments always unleashes a tide of questions for me… Maybe those who are much smarter than me can answer some questions.

How is this different from wiring a box that lets one decrypt and use satellite video signals? How is this different (other than the initial trespass) from hooking a long cable to one’s neighbor’s cable connection and using the video feed? If the host person’s WiFi is coming from bandwidth paid for by the host person, why is it not wrong to use that person’s bandwidth without permission? Is the host person’s WiFi networking security ignorance such a crime that “someone should take advantage of because they should have secured their network?”

Kevin says:

No difference...

It doesn’t matter if you access a network through an open WEP, crack the encryption key, walk in and sit down at the company’s computer, or hack in through a their firewall, it’s all illegal, if they didn’t give you permission, and covered under the same law(s).

Securing my network is my choice to attempt to block someone who decides to break the law. Just like locking the doors on my car. If I don’t lock the doors on my car, it’s not legal for you to take something out of it, or take the car.

And yes, if you have WiFi, and your neighbor has WiFi, and he didn’t secure it, and his is a better signal, and you access it, I’m sure he could press charges under the exact same law(s).

Somewhere along the line, people decided that it’s not breaking the law if no one has gone to great lengths to keep you from doing it, and that is wrong. We go to great lengths because too many people assume that it’s fine, as long as it’s easy.

Next someone is going to complain because they get arrested for shoplifting, even though the store didn’t wire that shirt to the rack…

mark says:

out of bounds.

Me thinks the police doth over-reach. That officer had no business making the assumption anything was being stolen, for one thing. At night he had no way of determining with any certainty where the radio signal (remember, wireless?) was originating from. Therefor, no probable cause. Local police have no jurisdiction over matters of Radio Frequency Energy, any more than they should be telling a Ham Radio Operator he can’t operate his station based on a neighbor’s complaint of interference. They should be leaving such matters to the FCC Enforcement folks. If the owner of the wifi was originating a complaint for theft of anything, they should’ve been told to encrypt or otherwise indicate they weren’t providing it for free. Then, like encrypted voice communications, one could reasonably assume they were not intending it to be received by the general public and was therefor protected. This is what occurs when people with no knowledge of radio start combining that with the law.

KAB says:

Radio

Your son leaves his plastic baseball bat at the neighborhood park my son and are at the park and use the bat to play ball (we don’t know you or your son). Did we steal the bat? No, we used what was left in the open.

Or…

If this is illegal than I plan on buying as much radio equipment as I can to hog the airwaves in my apartment complex. Once I monopolize the airwaves I will rent them back to my neighbors.

Or..

If you turn your blackberry speaker phone on and walk by me and I hear your conversation and you pick up something I say and the person you are talking to hears it have I illegally used your cell minutes? No, you facilitated my voice carrying over your phone because you did not set it up properly.

Or…

If I stop next to your car at a stop light and roll my window down as to hear the loud music you are playing on your car stereo am I a thief? No (RIAA’s hopes aside). Even if you argue that it is a one way signal I can become a thief by interacting with the signal by bobbing my head or playing air guitar with the music.

todd says:

RE:responsibility

We all have to be logical here-common sense tells us that there are free wi-fi access points open to the public and there are private access points that only the owner has a right to use-PERIOD. I think arrest in this case is a little overboard-until there is legislation to create laws to deal w/ this fast moving technology- dealing with this kind of problem, maybe a warning to the “thief” and the IT guy being fired may be a more appropriate response

Sham says:

Your using a service that another person has paid for without their consent. Your using another persons equipment that they paid for without their consent.

Just because a moron buys a walmart router and doesnt understand fully about the need for network security doesn’t give other people the right to take advantage of him or his equipment for free.

The fact is people in this world are slowly losing their capacity to differ between whats morally right and whats morally wrong.

TxOcelot says:

Re: Walk next door? No. Just broadcast it over RF!

I beg to differ, unless of course you named your SIDD “Free Connection” or otherwise made it clear by the labeling it was open to public access. Just because you leave it unsecured, does not mean it is FREE. The logic your imploring their is about as good as leaving your front door open to get some fresh air circulating, and everyone on the block reading that as “free beer in the fridge, help yourself”, it isn’t up to you to decide if they mean free, or if they mean keep out. It is up to you to find out and be sure of the intention of the owner.

wickedsun says:

Re: Re:

Think about what you just said. Do you really think that connecting to a WiFi connection is the same thing as entering an unlocked house? Wait a minute there buddy.

Air waves are not anyone’s property. A house is. Next.

A simpler analogy:

A website. Publicly accessed. Right? Did Google say “We allow you to connect to us!” or is it implied that a website is publicly available? Is it possible to block access to something on a website? Yes. Ok, good. Take website and replace with WiFi.

Should you be arrested for connecting to a website at 3 am?

Dave Keys (user link) says:

Mi Casa es Su casa

My WIFI is running 24-7-365, 366 on leap year for anyone who wants it. I don’t think my telco made any fuss about me sharing my bandwidth. My neighbors can use it if they want but it looks like they all have their own. You could drive by my house, park and hook up but the homeowners assn. will probably have you towed if you hang out for more than about 36 hours…

I guess the police needed an excuse to tag this guy hanging out in the middle of the night. I wonder if there was a city ordinance the court used to fine him, or if it was state penal code…

catsfall says:

Re: Mi Casa es Su casa

I think the only fuss about you sharing bandwidth would occur when someone sits on the street and downloads a bunch of DVD files through your network. Personally, that would make me pretty upset, especially if I was sitting in my house trying to download music at the same time.

It seems pretty clear-cut. Using someone else’s wireless is theft. It’s the same as if you walk into someone’s house when the door is unlocked and eat some of their food and take a bath in their bathroom, then leave before they come home.

Since the homeowner didn’t secure the home in the example above, if caught you will only be charged with illegally trespassing. If you had broken the lock to get in, it would have been breaking and entering at a minimum. In this case, the law takes into account the owner’s responsibility to secure the home by providing a lesser penalty for the offender- but that certainly does not change the fact that an offense did occur.

The same should apply to anyone using an unsecured wireless connection- if you don’t know that it is available for free access, then you shouldn’t be on it.

And for those who bring up McDonald’s and other free access points- around me, those free access points always direct you to a free registration page first, so you know who is giving you that nice free access.

mark says:

“Next someone is going to complain because they get arrested for shoplifting, even though the store didn’t wire that shirt to the rack…” This analogized to the original situation, would come out as breaking into the office at night and plugging in to the office’s connection. For decades, the originator of a radio signal understood that if he sent it out into the countryside, it was going to be listened to, and watched his language, unless he scrambled it somehow to prevent it from being converted to plain speech. Nobody entered the office, they sent an electromagnetic wave into the area, which is easily converted into a usable signal by openly available means. The law as it stands was drafted by those more willing to cater to a whining cellphone industry than to take the trouble to understand what they’re dabbling in. As soon as nobody is left using an old cellphone, and the old Conventional Analog FM equipment is removed, leaving only digitized (read encrypted) cellphone signals, the case makes itself for reversing the law. Once again, though, in the above case, there was no probable cause for the officer to do anything without a complaint by the office originating the connection, and then only for trespass, which in my state requires someone to refuse to leave, or having the property posted no trespassing. If the guy in the vehicle was on company property and it was posted, the farthest this should’ve gone is a trespass citation and maybe a tow if the officer was mean or the trespasser flunked the attitude test. I just hold to the historical standard of “if you don’t want radio listened to, make it private.” A law is not the proper way to compensate for technical ignorance. And, lest you think I am anti-police, I spent 28 years in the business of law-enforcement. Half of that as a licensed Ham Operator.

Whateva says:

Right on.

I like the previously posted analogy. Just because something is open or accessible doesn’t make it right to access it. Joe public is not a data security expert, and people are allowed to use technology without having every little detail figured out. It is wrong to assume that every open WiFi is exploitable. I don’t have much qualms about it, but if you get caught, don’t bitch about it and try to piss in my ear and call it rain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Again – if you broadcast something outside of your property lines – who can say that’s true?

If you leave the beer in the street – who could say a person walking by was stealing it if he opened a can and drank it? After all – you were leaving it open to the public.

He didn’t break in and use their information systems – which someone would have to do to get the beer IN your house.

If someone leaves their WiFi open and someone leeches bandwidth – yes, it’s their fault. They are telling the digital WiFi world “Here’s an open Network”.

Again, if they didn’t want to WiFi to be used – they shouldn’t broadcast a signal.

Just like ignorance of the law is no excuse – the same applies here. If you are stupid enough to leave your beer in the street – expect someone to take it.

I’m not saying the guy leeching the WiFi isn’t at fault also (he knew what he was doing) – but the business is the one who opened it up to public use.

Assume – for the sake of arguement.. He was in Covington, KY. Half the city is wired for free WiFi access – so if some half-wit user accidentally uses a business’ network – who would be to blame? the business for leaving it open or the person for using it?

Seems like they are both at fault. Perhaps the FCC should look into the business broadcasting outside of their propery lines? Isn’t there laws about what business can and cannot transmit over the airwaves?

See the differance between stealing Wifi and stealing a beer is that they have to trespass and/or enter the presmises without consent. This guy never did either – assuming he wasn’t sitting the their parking lot.

It boils down to this – if you don’t want your WiFi used by whomever – secure it. Personally, I could care less, mine’s wide-open. So anyone can use it if they like. All my shares and such on the PC’s are firewalled and proper security is applied to the computers, so I’m not worried about it.

So if someone pulls up outside my house and starts using the WiFi does the cop have the right to give him a ticket? I don’t care if he uses it or not.

TxOcelot says:

Re:

“Again – if you broadcast something outside of your property lines – who can say that’s true? ”

Not talking about receiving only, by maintaining a connection to an AP, you have no longer remained outside any property lines, but established and failed to sever emmediately a connection internally of that persons property.

Just as laws for shared wired phone lines made it illegal to remain on the line when another party was using it, (yea going back a while, but I remember them) The law then was based on moral responsible action and trust. You violate such, and your both morally and legally liable. What is the difference? Those days, you picked up the handset, listened, if it was in use you hung up. Maintaining the connection was a violation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anyone who attempts to justify accessing someone else’s WiFi as legal is simply doing just that – justifying it.

The fact is, it is the private resource of someone who set it up for a particular purpose – normally to provide himself (and perhaps his family) with wireless access to HIS network, which just so happens to be connected to the Internet.

Let’s assume that this WiFi network does NOT have Internet access. Should an interloper be allowed to peruse the local LAN? After all, it’s “coming across his antenna”. Should he be allowed to snoop on the homeowner’s private information?

A direct correlation to this would be cable service in an apartment building. If my neighbor has cable, and his cable runs inside the common wall between our apartments right next to my phone line, do I have the right to tap into it and get cable service? After all, there’s no loss, my neighbor doesn’t know the difference, and the cable company doesn’t lose money… Well.. They do, since I won’t pay for cable. That’s why if you are discovered, you’ll find out what the legal penalty is for theft of service. Same with hopping a free ride on a train or plane – it’s gonna go to it’s destination anyway, right? No loss here… But wait.. That’s apparently illegal too.

This is the same thing, folks. It’s a private network, secured or not. Unless you have been given OVERT permission to use it, you do not have that permission. Any attempt to justify it otherwise is simply ignorance of both the law and probably a desire to just do whatever the hell you want to do ’cause you feel it SHOULD be the way you want it to be. And I see that as no different than file sharing – we all know it’s illegal, but yet some persist that it should be made legal – just because they want it to be so.

Get over it. Accessing someone’s WiFi, secured or not, without permission is illegal, and that’s the end of the arguement.

Don says:

Re: Re:

>> “A direct correlation to this would be cable service in an apartment building. If my neighbor has cable, and his cable runs inside the common wall between our apartments right next to my phone line, do I have the right to tap into it and get cable service?”

That’s not actually a direct correlation unless the person actually hacked the WiFi network. A more acurate analogy would be finding a cable line in my apartment that for whatever reason happened to be part of my neighbors service, plugging it in and discovering I had cable.

Let’s use the car analogy instead. I tend to leave my doors unlocked in most situations. It’s far more convenient for me to have certain people have easy access to it most of the time, although there is an increased risk that someone I don’t want might access my car and take something.

However, I know from personal experience a true professional can unlock most cars in less than 20 seconds, and those of lesser skill will merely break the window to gain access. My dad did auto glass for 30 years so I know how much those windows cost and if someone really really wants something that bad let them just have it and save me the added expense of repalcing the window.

That being said, when I go someplace, like certain malls, where I know pedators go around testing cars for easy marks like unlocked doors, I DO secure my vehicle to pervent such easy access – the risk outweighs the convenience in such circumstances.

That being said, in over 15 years I’ve never had my car entered unathorized to the best of my knowledge, because I take what I feel are appropriate steps as needed to secure my vehicle.

Does that mean I condone the person found in the middle of the night using someone else’s WiFi connect. No, just as I wouldn’t condone someone entering my car without permission and taking something whether it was locked or unlocked. From the details provides it sounds likely he knew he was doing wrong and some measure of penalty should likely be considered depending on the specifics of the case.

However responsibility is a two way street. Just as it is my responsibilty to secure my vehicle if I park it somewhere people are likely to test the handle to see if it’s unlocked, its also the responsibilty of people to secure their “property” (in this case WiFi) if they don’t want just anyone gaining easy access to it.

I, too, am annoyed by what another poster refered to along the lines of the “AOL metanity” (and as an regular AOL user for about 5 years I came to know this mentality well) of people not knowing anything about their systems because of the ease of accessibilty. If your going to use the technology you’re responsible for its proper use, just as you are responsible for the proper maintainance and security of your car (a lesson I’ve learned a few times in car repair bills).

And yes, whether it is illegal or not, if you leave your bloody front door open 24/7 someone is far, far more likely to walk into your home than if you close and lock the door.

heavyw8t says:

Blame

I blame this kind of thing on what I cann “The AOL Mentality”. AOL is designed so every stupid newbie on earth can plug in a phone line and be on the Internet in 10 minutes. We have dumbed down the gear and shortened the learning curse so much that every jackass on earth can use it with no basic knowledge of networking, in this case encryption. I say take away the “quick start” portion of manuals and make people read about how to use the gear as it was intended, not just well enough to make it work. I drove down a street that had strip malls on both sides with my Dell Axim. In 4/10ths of a mile I found 17 networks, 11 of them not secure. Connected to all 11 just to see if they had ANY kind of security in place. None. Now, some travelling salesman who needs to send one email and knows that if he sits outside the Borders store he will get a connection does so, is that illegal even though Borders is a hot spot ON PURPOSE? Gray area after gray area with this stuff.

Marshall (user link) says:

Laptop's illegal?

ok, I knew that using a laptop while driving was illegal, or even having someone in the vehicle use one while the car is in motion is illegal… well at least around here it is, because they say it’s a distraction to other drivers. Well, it’s no more a distraction than driving behind a van with little kids watching a video. In fact I find that way more of a distraction than a laptop.

Even still, WiFi is a free service, unless otherwise set up by the provider and it’s not like the guy was circling the place, scoping it out, trying to find the best place to set up a bomb.

If it’s illegal to get WiFi on your laptop in that case, than shouldn’t cyber cafes be illegal too? Same idea, isn’t it? Whatever, Keep the articles like these coming, this is intresting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Laptop's illegal?

Not all places that have WI-Fi are illegal. Some places like cyber cafes have information saying that granted you access to use thier bandwith. They give you permission, but going around and jumping on someones bandwidth that they have paid for thier business or personal use is illegal. The signal just does not float around you. It has to cross there property lines and use resources they pay for allow you to surf the net. The law does not say I have to lock my car when I park it but do I yes. Now even if I was stupid and left it unlocked that does not give you the right to open the door and take what you decide you want. Its illegel to use someone eles things for any type of personal gain even if it is for just the pleasure of surfing the net unless you get permission.

zcat (user link) says:

Free TV

The front-door analogy is bullshit. Nobody’s entering your property. How about if you left your TV or laptop right out on the curbside and someone came by and grabbed it.

Could you claim they stole it because you didn’t have a sign saying ‘Free’? In this case you’ve actually had some property taken, but don’t expect much sympathy from the police!

In the case of WiFi, your signal is right out on the curbside _and_ you’re hardly inconvenienced _and_ even if it’s bothering you, you could switch on WEP any time.

Scott says:

Re: Free TV

HEY WAKE UP…you are connecting to my access point on my property, going across cables that I own, to a service I pay for, all at MY address.

WATCHING TV AND LISTENING TO THE RADIO IS A ONE WAY DEAL.

Did you notice that is a one way deal on TV and radio?

Repeat after me TV and radio broadcasting are one way communications.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a huge difference between having an usecured WiFi network and having an usecured WiFi network with the SSID of “Public Use”. The second grants de facto permission to use it. From a legal perspective, you cannot assume use of private property except in certain circumstances that are already codified into law (such as the public license to enter the private property of a mall – which, of course, has the right to kick you out if desired). There is no such exception for a computer network, or, for that matter, for a wireless service.

To use the “beer analogy” above – if I leave a keg of beer in the street and you drink it, you HAVE broken the law – you’ve committed larceny – you’ve stolen my property. If I leave the keg in the street with a sign saying, “FREE BEER”, then you are welcome to it – because you have my PERMISSION.

What do you think would happen if a bag of money fell out of an armored car onto the street where it was left for several hours? Do you honestly think that it suddenly becomes ownerless and that you have a right to take it? Same with a WiFi signal. Just because it leaves my property line does not make it any less “mine”. Or do you expect that your cellular calls and cordless phone calls are suddenly up-for-grabs because they leave your property line? Mind if I browse the phone book on your Bluetooth phone? After all, the Bluetooth signal left your cell phone in a public area. Better yet, will you be pissed off when I monitor the call you’re making with that cool Bluetooth headset? Hmm, seems that it uses a standard pairing code of “0000” – looks like you didn’t bother to secure it.

mark says:

What several posters forget here is there is a big difference between leeching bandwidth (doesn’t it seem to be human nature to get as much for as little?) and the officer having any legal reason to believe a law was being violated. This whole area of law is regulated at the Federal level. Local political jurisdictions have no more business trying to govern it than they have to tell you how many channels your TV is allowed to receive, or what technology you are allowed to use. That takes place far over the heads of anyone at the state level or below.

Networking Geek says:

Negligence is no excuse!

Yes, anyone can subscribe to high speed internet access. No, there are no requirements for training to do so. Yes, anybody can go to “Walmart” and purchase a cheap wireless router. However, the person who purchases the product should be the one to be held liable, not the person taking advantage of the free service that was available to him. Should guns come with labels on them saying “CAUTION, MAY KILL PEOPLE!” No!, and wireless routers should not have to come with labels saying “CAUTION, MAY PROVIDE INTERNET ACCESS TO SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF!”

Pretty absurd huh? If arrests are to be made in cases like this for “theft of services” than the person who provided the open network should also be arrested. The onus should be on the person providing the service to prove that he did everything in his power to secure the network. If the provider can prove that the network was hacked, more power to the police. If there was no B&E into the network, no theft!

Chris (co-owner of MaD MarQ llc) says:

Ignorance is bliss

How can anyone take things seriously from people who can’t even post a name. Anonymous Coward is about right. Could be someone else’s WiFi. But DJ said it right with radio waves. If you don’t know the technology then don’t get into it. Anyone who has a computer heard the term nothing is ever safe connected to the internet. If you haven’t then you need to take a class in computers. It’s other peoples ignorance to say people should be honest. I have yet to see someone out there that’s 100% honest. There’s not one person on this board that can say they’ve been honest their entire life. It’s the american way to get things cheaper if not for free. And seeing the radio waves are free…why not leech off of them for free. You access someone’s computer from a WiFi and do damage or get personal info then you get a problem with the law. My business revolves around internet security and repair. People who don’t know what they are doing with cars, computers, anything that can be sold these days is a wet dream for the people who sell and service them. Try educating yourself before you get into the new age. Otherwise you get to see me about fixing the computer someone ruined because you broadcasted the info out there without securing it. Not our fault you can’t read the nifty directions that come with the WAP.

Anonymous Coward #42 says:

Seems like nobody has touched on the part of the story that really pisses me off:

“The police are quoted warning others to beware that they, too, can get arrested and spend a year in jail if spotted using a laptop in a car.”

Let’s forget about the morality / legality of open WiFi. I can’t even use my laptop in a parked car?!!?!??! WTF??

Hello Mr. Orwell, my name is AC#42, I guess you were right.

Vincent says:

Where you miss the point

The law is already clear here, as the FCC points out any signal that passes into the public domain is public. the DMCA adds the caveat that it becomes illegal to decrypt a signal short of that at best you are guilty of loitering. I have a WIFI connection that is secured with encryption and one IP that is in the DMZ for use by any who can get it. I use WIFI all over town, but also share mine. As far as thier agreement with their ISP it is the responsibility of the person to remain with in the confines of that agreement. And by the way if you leave your car running and unlocked you are commiting a crime in IL at least. If the signal is in the public it is public.

MJ says:

I live outside the US so I have poor knowledge about the legislation behind this. But I know there are people who leave their access point open on purpose. These people do not want anyone to ask their permission before using their bandwidth. Is it illegal to use this kind of access when you have no way of knowing if you have permission or not?

I guess it becomes illegal if, after a person has been caught, the access point owner tells police he/she did not want others to use the connection. So, if two persons are caught in front of your house, you could say that the young lady certainly has permission to use your connection. But since you don’t like the looks of her boyfriend, you tell the police to write him a $350 fine.

DJ says:

Look up laws people.

Any lawyer with half a brain could get this guy off. The FCC clearly states that picking up radio waves (of any type) that fly through the air is perfectly legal. A great example of this is something that the same law enforcement people did themselves. They used to pick up cellular calls and use that info to get warrants and whatnot. It was legal because they were simply picking up signals flying through the air.

Anyone who has a cordless phone can be listened to using a fairly cheap scanner. The same sort that can pick up police radio. The police have spent thousands o the trunking system so that it’s difficult to hear both sides of their conversations. Would they have done so if it were illegal to pick these symbols up? I think not.

Then again, they do love spending that funding they get on other stupid things.

Not to even mention about the recent cases on not being responsible for what other people do while on your WiFi.

Toots says:

Still....the company should have secured it

Sorry….of all the posts that I have read here, I have never been compeled to post until this. I’m sorry but when it comes down to it, it is the company who bought there service resposibilty to secure thier network if they do not want intruders on it. That is why there is why securing was invinted. So logically if they did not do it they were happy with letting every Tom, Dick and Harry use there service. Where I live our police have there own WFI set up all around the west side, unsecured, do they go around bitching becasue people sit outside and use it? No. Some people just need to learn to keep there stuff secure, others need to get in the age of computers, the internet, and techs, and others needs to stop whining.

Toots says:

Still....the company should have secured it

Sorry….of all the posts that I have read here, I have never been compeled to post until this. I’m sorry but when it comes down to it, it is the company who bought there service resposibilty to secure thier network if they do not want intruders on it. That is why securing was invinted. So logically if they did not do it they were happy with letting every Tom, Dick and Harry use there service. Where I live our police have there own WFI set up all around the west side, unsecured, do they go around bitching becasue people sit outside and use it? No. Some people just need to learn to keep there stuff secure, others need to get in the age of computers, the internet, and techs, and others needs to stop whining.

Rod says:

Radio and XP

So if I have my WAP wide open at home with a default SSID “linksys” then head to work and open up my laptop and it connects to the next door “linksys” automaticaly I’m at fault!!! Maybe it microsoft thats at fault. Secondly the FCC has to control radio stuff like wifi I’ve read all kinds of stories and interprations of the laws but somebody needs to get the record straight. I plan to leave my wifi open wifi for everyone!!!

DJ says:

BTW

There wasn’t an apparent reason given for why the officer confronted this guy in the first place. Sitting in your car on public property is not a crime unless it is posted. Last I checked this wasn’t communist Russia or nazi Germany. Looks like we’re headed for the ever closer police state. My grandparents must be rolling over in their graves. This isn’t the sort of “freedom” they fought so hard for us to live in.

Paul says:

Water? Phone?

If the company in question had a water hose accessible from the street (off of their private property, so no tresspassing) and there were no signs or anything saying “Employees Only” and there was no type of security to prevent someone from using the hose, would someone get arrested for using the hose to get a drink or wash their hands or wash their car?

What if there was a free phonebooth, accessible without trespassing, no security devices and no signs saying employees only.. would someone get arrested for using it to make a call?

If someone is “stealing” someons open WiFi then it is really only the fault of the person who didn’t put any security on it.

It takes 2 clicks to enable WEP on an access point..

I would agree, however, that one should get fined or arrested for gaining unauthorised access to a SECURED network, be it from hacking the wep key, guessing it or somehow obtaining it otherwise.

Ali (user link) says:

WTF

I’m a business owner and I use my laptop in my car all the time. I have cingular data service also since I have clients all over I at times use their wireless internet access to either check my mail reply to some thing urgent or even provide remote support. So what the hell these cops are going to mess with innocent business owners too know to feed their funds. That is so lame.

They all need to get a life and focus on some real crime.

durtgurltx says:

It seems like...

for a lot of petty crimes, the ‘victim’ either decides to press charges or doesn’t. How do we know that the non-profit even gave a crap about what he was doing?

Seems like having an open connection is more like leaving a pile of old furniture on your sidewalk; most people will assume it is theirs to take if they so desire unless something (like a sign or an access key) indicates otherwise.

zoobuhs says:

RE: by Anonymous Coward #42 on Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 1

“Let’s forget about the morality / legality of open WiFi. I can’t even use my laptop in a parked car?!!?!??! WTF?? ”

You got it Anon! This is the basis for the policeman having the ability to fine the person in the first place. The law has nothing to do with WiFi interception/transmission. It deals with safety concerns of someone driving while using her laptop (i don’t see how using the GPS display is much different, but anyway).

So, the officer can cite the person for one thing (using a laptop in the car –while in the driver’s seat, with the keys probably in the ignition–), while his motivation for citing her is rooted in something unrelated (using someone’s wireless access point (presumably, without the AP owner’s knowledge).

“Spirit of the law” concerns should be able to get this guy off. But it’s ultimately up to the judge.

It’s kinda like the racist police officer who pulls over an Indian because he doesn’t like Indians, but he can justify pulling the Indian over because her tailight didn’t work. Not a perfect analogy but you get the idea.

Was the person with the laptop thinking about driving while using it? Probably not. But it’s her word against the cop’s. Sucks doesn’t it.

Logical says:

Think about it

Not going into the merit of whether the network should be secure or not, it’s irrelevant…

If I leave my car, unlocked, windows open, even with the door open, and a bag of money on the seat. If you walk by and take it, you are guilty of theft. You could allege that I am an idiot to have done that, you could even be right, doesn’t matter… you’re guilty of theft…

end of story…

Sam Alex says:

What law did he break???

I do look at using someone’s open wifi connect as an extension of their property, and not unlike putting up a fence if someone doesn’t want me to use their wifi they need to enable encryption.

Most folks wouldn’t object to someone cutting a corner through their yard or turning around in their driveway — if they did then they should put up signs or fences… wifi is exactly the same. I’d not hesitate to cut through someone’s backyard who has no fence nor visible message telling me to keep out, just like I’d not hesitate to use someone’s open wifi connection.

But there are limits… the few times I’ve used open wifi it’s mainly to check email, get quick map directions, or something simple — not surfing for an hour or downloading torrents. That’s like pitching a tent in someone’s back yard.

There are limits to everything, and though technically I guess someone could sue someone for turning around in their driveway or walking through their backyard for a shortcut between point A and B, I’ve never seen such a case. Why is wifi so different ????

nominal says:

Re: What law did he break???

You can probably get away with cutting a corner through someone’s yard. Kids do it through mine all the time. I hate them for it. A big fence around my little yard would look dumb and signs are tacky. I shouldn’t have to pay for an expensive fence (look into those prices) when it’s already illegal to trespass, and the sidewalk’s on the other side of the road. They do it when i’m not home and there’s often crap in my yard like doritos bags or gum wrappers. Didn’t some guy recently shoot a kid for playing in his yard? I heard the 911 call. If the kids tripped and hurt themselves their parents could sue me.

The guy camped out next to the place to take wifi. A non-profit organization, so you’re supposed to be nice to them to begin with. Especially if you’re an anti-establisment I-hate-corporations hippie who thinks wifi should be free for everyone. He didn’t go suck off of the many many places that offer public access like mcdonalds or starbucks or panera or a library or barnes and noble or somewhere.

Going to an errant website while on wifi at work is different. You have permission to use the network. Likewise they get to filter things or monitor you at their discretion.

My wifi is not secured. My little old lady neighbors would not steal it. if i find a car outside my house stealing wifi, I will call the cops and say he’s peeping or something, or hide nails on the road.

Let’s not defend this lame-o. He’s 32. He’s a grown man, who’s too lame to buy internet access, so he goes and SNEAKS it late at night from a non-profit agency from his car. That’s kind of like climbing a tree with a radio to watch a movie at a drive in because you’re too cheap to pay the $3.50 to watch it in a comfortable location. And being 32 years old. He probably couldn’t go to a public place because he was probably watching porn. It’s late at night, and he doesn’t have a date. Losers should be imprisoned.

Robert Leaverton says:

Again, Tech before the Law!

I think it is a crime but not in the way that the police are looking at it. It is a crime that they are spending time arresting people for using what clearly is intented to be used. If the not for profit did not want anyone to use it they could have secired it with no problem. Locking a WiFi is as simple as using it. So they are making it open to whomever could access it, plain and simple.

Anonymous Patriot says:

The arguments here – if they can be called that – all boil down to one of two world views, one side are folks who feel the need to live their lives by tightly constrained, black-and-white, legalistic, explicitly stated and defined sets of rules. These are the folks who say things like “theft is theft,”? ironically confuse infringing copyright with stealing, think that using an open WiFi access point is stealing, and want to clamp down and secure and charge for everything in the world. Because that is what is “fair” in their view. They behave very much like young children with candy.

The folks with the other world view believe in the free exchange of information, freedom, moral reasoning that includes shades of grey, sharing, and being guided more by a sense of the golden rule than by any explicitly stated set of rules. This group understands that even if something is illegal, it still might not be wrong, and that something that is wrong might not be illegal.

The thing is – that these groups will NEVER agree. Their world views are mutually exclusive. One wants to clamp down and impose law, the other wants to open up and encourage freedom. One wants to share, and the other wants to charge. Unfortunately everybody starts out, as children, in the first group, and clearly not everyone grows out of it, so there are naturally more folks in the former group than are in the latter. On the plus side, because those in the first group are working on a relatively primitive level of moral reasoning, they CAN grow and become those in the second group – but in America it doesn’t happen nearly often enough. And so we see people getting arrested for using open WiFi.

Tom says:

I always leave my wifi network open for precisely this reason. If there’s someone outside and needs access to the internet, I don’t mind if they use it. I don’t want the cops to be harrassing people that are taking advantage of my generosity. I encourage you to leave your network open for strangers too, untill you find a good reason to be paranoid. Long lost Xenia.

pendrachken says:

get over it idiots

get over yourselves, hippocrits. you would use open wifi if you could find it. PLUS the FACT is you could access the pentagons internal networks from the putside by exploiting security vulnerabilities and it would still be legal IF YOU A) DO NOT DESTROY DATA B) COPY DATA TO SELL OR USE AGAINST THE AGENCY C) LEAVE BEHIND MALICIOUS CODE meaning that you could use their cluster to compute quantom physics if you wanted to… so long as there was no damage to the everyday use of the data on the networks.

prshaw says:

So we all agree

If you don’t want me to take what you have, then you better be better at locking it down then I am at ‘using’ it.

It is no longer that if it belongs to someone else you need to have permission to use it. It is now if I can take it then it is your fault for not having better protective measures.

Just wondering if this also applies to your car? If you aren’t driving it, and I have a ‘key’ that will open and start it, then is it ok for me to take it and blame it on you for not securing it from me?

AGeek@BestBuy says:

Fined For Using Someone Else's WiFi?

Here’s the real deal…It is up to the owner of the wireless router or modem to encrypt it so no-one can piggy-back on their system. If they fail to do so, anyone with a computer with antenna is free to use that signal, as long as they aren’t trespassing on the owners property. I have friends that live in condos, and use someone Else’s ISP for free. When we are dispatched to set-up a wireless system in someones residence, we always encrypt it. By the way, it is also VERY easy to hack into wireless owners computer and steal info!

Christopher Hinojosa (user link) says:

Unlawful

It is the responsibility of the owner of the wireless router to secure their network because they are fully aware by software notification and by user manual/setup instructions to change/setup a password for the router. If they fail to arrange a password, they are then publicly sharing their connection. And if the police officer doesn’t know enough about the technicalities of the subject matter, then he has no business issuing tickets to those who AREN’T violating the law.

lewscroo says:

you may be able to argue something like ‘diminuous usage’ of their service. similar to if you threw out your trash in somebody elses garbage can. as long as its something miniscule, like say a candy wrapper, i believe that it has been ruled to be allowed. Obviously it would be illegal if you and your neighbors shared one trash bin to cheat the garbage collectors out of revenues, small amounts would be allowed. so if the guy was freeloading off the connection to download illegal files or was hogging all the bandwidth then thats another story.

Jason says:

Meanwhile down the block....

Someone was getting mugged.

I think that this is retarded. It’s like if someone’s tree is growing over your fence, into your yard, you have the right to trim it back, or pluck the fruit from its limbs. This WiFi tree happened to be sprawled out over onto public property, so he was merely picking up it’s WiFi fruit =)

David Hergert (user link) says:

You people are crazy

Are you kidding me? You really think he wasn’t stealing? So if a grocery store doesn’t have doors or cashiers to ring you out, then you are free to take whatever you want?

If there is an outlet on the side of a government building, are you saying it would be perfectly legal for me to plugin an extension cord and run it to my house to power my things? I mean, c’mon, they should have turned off the outlet when no one was using it right? Or removed it at night?

I was in the parking lot the other day and noticed a car with its door slightly open and the key in the ignition. So I figured, hey, the owner should have locked this up, so I am free to take it. So I did. Crazily enough, I was arrested within hours. Can you believe it!? The nerve of those cops to arrest ME for using another persons car when THEY left it open!

Do you need more examples? Seriously people. Yeah, I agree people should be responsible and not make their networks accessible. But it does not give others the right to exploit it…if they do, they are criminals.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: You people are crazy

Are you kidding me? You really think he wasn’t stealing? So if a grocery store doesn’t have doors or cashiers to ring you out, then you are free to take whatever you want?

No, then something is missing. What’s misisng in this case?

If there is an outlet on the side of a government building, are you saying it would be perfectly legal for me to plugin an extension cord and run it to my house to power my things?

That would involve actively plugging in. Not just having access.

I was in the parking lot the other day and noticed a car with its door slightly open and the key in the ignition. So I figured, hey, the owner should have locked this up, so I am free to take it. So I did. Crazily enough, I was arrested within hours. Can you believe it!? The nerve of those cops to arrest ME for using another persons car when THEY left it open!

Again totally different. Something is missing. You stole a tangible product.

Do you need more examples? Seriously people. Yeah, I agree people should be responsible and not make their networks accessible. But it does not give others the right to exploit it…if they do, they are criminals

So, yeah, you do need more examples, because yours don’t apply.

We can just as easily use examples going the other way to show you’re wrong.

What if you turn on a sprinler, and the water goes over your property and helps water the neighbor’s plants. Did they “steal” water from you?

What if you have a light outside of your house and it lights up the street. If I stand in the street and read under that light have I “stolen” your light?

So, it’s not quite as clear cut as you like to imply.

The Man says:

Re: Re: You people are crazy

What if you turn on a sprinler, and the water goes over your property and helps water the neighbor’s plants. Did they “steal” water from you?

Absolutely, it wasn’t their water water! It’s just like shoplifting.

What if you have a light outside of your house and it lights up the street. If I stand in the street and read under that light have I “stolen” your light?

If you didn’t pay for it, then of course you have!

I getting sick and tired of all the individual theft going these days. And don’t even get me started on the plague of intellectual property theft.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You people are crazy

someone keeps stuffing dollar bills through my mailslot…

or

I notice my neighbors door has been left open from time to time…

keeping the money, can’t be compared to taking stuff.

how much was the bandwidth worth anyways? if it was stealing, then what about that dime you may have found somewhere.

remember those birds you heard? they sang to each other, and not to you. And since you heard them and didn’t pay, you should be jailed.

Mac in PA says:

Using someone else's WIFI w/o permission is illega

Using someone else’s WIFI w/o permission is illegal. The problem is that the laws in the US haven’t caught up with the technology yet. Here in PA, we can fit this crime into a few existing laws, but the judges and district attorney’s don’t want to charge, YET, because its too vague.

Panera Bread – They allow you do use their wifi. Its advertised and encouraged. So, thats not illegal. Most libraries in PA, for instance, now have free wifi for anyone to use whether your a member or not.

But just because you drive down the road and find and open wifi network, doesn’t mean you get to acquire an IP address on that person or business’s network and get to use their bandwidth. Its not the person’s or company’s responsibility to lock their wifi network down, although its a good idea. Saying that its the fault of the person or business because the wifi was open is like saying you were allowed to go inside their house or business because they left the door unlocked.

Its illegal, but people will continue to get away with it for years until the law catches up with technology.

Although my point of view is that its illegal, you have to show intent for theft. If I check into a motel/hotel, pop open my laptop to work on a word document and I realize that I have wifi access, it could be a defense to say that you thought it was the wifi provided by the hotel since most hotel’s are beginning to do this. Although, sitting in the middle of a parking lot across from a business, I don’t think you could argue that you expected to get wifi legally.

This is what the lawyers will do to drag this out to death until the laws catch up.

And lastly, I have these views because I am a police officer in PA and this is how I view the law. But I will agree that since no one seems to want to prosecute this YET in PA, it seems that the view is that, for now, its not illegal. I actually think it does fit into our theft section, but for now, thats just my view.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Using someone else's WIFI w/o permission is il

Using someone else’s WIFI w/o permission is illegal. The problem is that the laws in the US haven’t caught up with the technology yet.

This makes no sense. You’re saying that it’s illegal even though the laws don’t say it’s illegal?

Saying that its the fault of the person or business because the wifi was open is like saying you were allowed to go inside their house or business because they left the door unlocked.

No, that’s trespassing — for which there is a clear law. Accessing an open network on public property isn’t trespassing.

Although, sitting in the middle of a parking lot across from a business, I don’t think you could argue that you expected to get wifi legally.

Why not? The network was open, and so it’s reasonable to assume it’s there to be used. There are no losses from someone using it.

Anonymous Coward says:

First of all, in this case I think the guy was in the wrong — moreover he probably knew he was in the wrong because he was in his car at night outside of a business, but at the same time the IT department of this organization should show some professionalism and lock it down. It’s not that hard to distribute a wireless key to the employees or something. They’re both at fault.

But some people are talking about this in a general sense, coming up with hypothetical situations and analogies that really don’t have much to do with the specific case—such as what if the owner of the service is too computer illiterate to know to secure the wireless network? How about this situation: Joe Blow is too computer illiterate to know that his brand new Windows XP machine has just jumped onto an open network? What if he’s paying for his own service but for some reason he’s not even connected to his open ‘linksys’ router, he found Sue’s open ‘linksys’ router. Is he now a criminal because he’s just using “The Internet” like half of the Americans who get a wireless router for their house (this statistic was made up, but probably pretty close).

I’m just saying it can’t be as cut and dry as either he’s using someone else’s WiFi so he’s a thief and should be arrested, or the provider is at fault and should have known because… she bought a wireless router. These are probably going to have to be determined on a case by case basis.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

First of all, in this case I think the guy was in the wrong — moreover he probably knew he was in the wrong because he was in his car at night outside of a business.

Huh? Why does that imply he was in the wrong? The network was open, he needed connectivity, he wasn’t clogging up anyone’s network.

Maybe he simply needed to connect for some reason. Why would that imply he *knew* he was in the wrong. He saw the network was open and it made sense to use it. Plenty of people would do the same thing — and if the NY Times ethicist even says that doing so is perfectly ethical, why should we think it’s “wrong”?

Mick says:

Police State is right!

I went and seen that new movie V for Vendetta last nite and it startled me as to what the future could possibly hold for the US if things keep going in the direction that they seem to be going..Unwarrented wiretaps, unwarrented search and seizure…making it illegal to blow the whistle on the government…and now you can use your laptop in your car? I mean it might not seem like much but are the masses going to wake up from this terror crazed state and see the freedoms that are being taken away from us one by one?

ZippyHendirez (user link) says:

Okay, let's think a second, folks...

A couple of points:

1. Legally, it is not the responsibility of the non-profit to secure the network at this time. It’s a good idea, in fact a great idea, but it’s not _legally_ responsible to do it, unless it can be proven that it is interfering with another signal, and even then, it’s probably a civil case, not criminal.

2. Keep in mind that he was _in the parking lot of the non-profit_, which is not technically public property, just like malls are not public property–they are publicly accessable, but private property. So the fruit over the fence analogy doesn’t work–he was in the yard getting the fruit. If he parked on the street, the analogy would be more accurate. Then it would be a muddier issue.

3. This can’t be compared to TV and Radio for one reason: licensing. Wireless network equipment is not licenced, just like CB radio or FRS radio. But a TV or radio broadcaster must purchase a public license to broadcast. Wi-Fi may be airwaves in the public, but it is _not_ public airwaves.

In the end, this case is almost certainly a victimless crime, but it _is_ a crime, legally speaking.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Okay, let's think a second, folks...

In the end, this case is almost certainly a victimless crime, but it _is_ a crime, legally speaking.

How so?

You point to him potentially not being on public property (which isn’t clear), but then he should have been charged with trespassing.

Instead he was charged with theft of services, and I’m still asking what’s *missing*. If something was stolen, something needs to be missing.

If there’s no loss it’s hard to see how a crime was committed.

Anonymous Coward #42 says:

Let’s see if I can figure out what might have been taking place:

Man

Man Alone

Man Alone at night

Man alone at night in remote area

man alone at night in remote area on internet

man alone at night in remote area on internet…is probably not checking the stock tickers….

Who wants to bet the car was a rockin’? $10 says this guy is married and can’t get his porn fix at home. Why else would a guy go park in front a building and jack (yes, pun intended) WiFi? In that case, the police probably do have some sort of indencency law to cite.

Praetorian_TMOTC says:

C'Mon its a case of active VS passive

Scott (Post No 6) had it right, if you were passively “viewing” the data coming out of a WAP then you have no problem, the analogy of TV/Radio etc will work here. However, when going on the internet etc aren’t we forgetting that in order to RECIEVE a page we first have to REQUEST the page, that requires a active connection and thus we ARE trespassing by requesting that page.

Yes people should secure their WiFi (if they know how – that’s another argument), but we shouldn’t just assume that because something is available that it’s okay to just use it without thinking of the responsiblity involved. The futility of saying that “but its unsecured” and in their heads thinking “it’s free” is just absurd. Take care and use open networks you want, just don’t think that it’s free because it’s unsecured.

–Praetorian_TMOTC

Mike says:

Learn some basic networking

Ok kiddies, here is a BASIC WIFI lesson.

Open access points broadcast ALL the time, “Here I am!!” Your network card says “Can I use you?” The reply, “Sure! Here is an IP address!” And away you go.

As the OWNER set up the network to automatically INVITE people to use it, he should not be suprised when people do.

This is more akin to asking a child if you can come in and take a bath. If Mom and Dad allow the kid to answer the door, and talk to strangers, they should expect strange things to occur. Mom and Dad might not like it, but no one can argue about permission. Kid gave it, so no crime.

In this case, owner set up network to invite usage, someone did, no crime.

If he sat there and decrypted their WEP key, that would be a whole nother story…

Tigger says:

Read the article

The linked news article says nothing about the fined user being in a parking lot, or trespassing, or doing anything indecent. The article expressly states that he was arrested and fined for using the unsecured wifi. There wasn’t even a mention regarding whether or not the company left the access open purposely. The “crime” was remotely accessing another computer system without the owner’s approval, not even “using a laptop in a car”. We can discuss the issue of legality or not, but lets at least know what we are discussing.

EuroMarkus says:

Not "THEFT OF SERVICE"

Technically, this is not ‘Theft Of Service’, unless the non-profit sells Wi-Fi (provides the service).

The creation of “Theft of Service” statutes were targeted at people stealing cable, running out on a dining check, etc — people who used a vendor’s services and had an obligation to pay, but didn’t.

The guy in the car was using an open AP, which isn’t a “service” in this case — the company wasn’t running a non-profit T-Mobile Hotspot-like service in this case.

Mike says:

And again

This has little to do with loss, it has more to do with implied permission.

By setting up an open access point, you are doing the electronic equivelent of putting a sign on your front lawn saying free internet. IF you put that sign up but you don’t read english, is that the fault of the person that reads it?

I am sure that if I put a sign on my lawn that said, “Free tv,come inside and take it!” (in Japanese and I thought it just looked cool cuz of the letters) Would someone who understood Japanese that took your TV be guilty of theft? Nope. You invited em in. For whatever stupid reason, you did, and there is no crime… (cept stupidity)

Anonymous Hero says:

Re: And again

This has little to do with loss, it has more to do with implied permission.

By setting up an open access point, you are doing the electronic equivelent of putting a sign on your front lawn saying free internet. IF you put that sign up but you don’t read english, is that the fault of the person that reads it?

I am sure that if I put a sign on my lawn that said, “Free tv,come inside and take it!” (in Japanese and I thought it just looked cool cuz of the letters) Would someone who understood Japanese that took your TV be guilty of theft? Nope. You invited em in. For whatever stupid reason, you did, and there is no crime… (cept stupidity)

Exactly. Not everyone knows how to set up WiFi, nor should they. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then the reasonable thing to do is to HIRE someone who does. Likewise, it is reasonable to assume an open access point is open on purpose.

FratBoy says:

Permission was given and a lease of an amount of time was given when you DHCP.

Do idiots know what DHCP is? This idiot paid $250 because he and the cops don’t know how things work.

You better know how things work people, get a clue.

So when you get DHCP, you knock on the door and then you are invited in, including a lease of time to use the service (renewable too).

And lately a district court ruled that in a suit against google that when you automatically pass packets like a ISP does, you also have no liability because you are then just like a ISP, so there’s no reason to lock down your wireless, and that’s another reason to assume someone has left their wireless open for free access.

READ: THERE IS NO REASON TO LOCK DOWN YOUR WIRELESS!

DHCP gives you a IP address and gateway address so you CAN access the internet. Without it you couldn’t use the router anyway, so it invited you to use it.

Kaustav Ghoshal (user link) says:

Ridiculous

I believe it is ridiculous to arrest the person only on the charge that he was using someone else’s wireless connection. The owner of the wireless network is at fault to leave his network unsecured.

Moreover I’m not sure if there is any cyber law in the US that states explicitly that using an unsecured wireless network is illegal. Then how would you justify places like Starbucks, who provide free wireless internet?

~kaustav ghoshal

Mike says:

nothing to do with sending or receiving either

“Scott (Post No 6) had it right, if you were passively “viewing” the data coming out of a WAP then you have no problem, the analogy of TV/Radio etc will work here. However, when going on the internet etc aren’t we forgetting that in order to RECIEVE a page we first have to REQUEST the page, that requires a active connection and thus we ARE trespassing by requesting that page.”

Wow, how misguided.

So, By requesting a page you are stealing? How so when the access point already GRANTED permission?

We have devices grant permission and access all the time. If you were in my house and had a key and the alarm code, the cops would not arrest you. They might ask you to leave, but at some point in time PERMISSION was granted by me to you because of the key and the code. Now if you copied the key, or stole the code that is different, but remember, we are talking about OPEN access points that automatically GRANT access.

And additionally, computer tresspass specifically requires that you are accessing a network that you do not have permission to use. As the WIFI router has granted permission for the owner to the user of the network AUTOMATICALLY, it is no longer computer tresspass.

S-C says:

Something You're Forgetting

There is one important fact you’re missing with regard to installing a wireless router/access point.

All wireless hardware comes with instructions to physically install the hardware. Included in these same instructions lay the ‘securing your wireless network’ walk-thru.

One can’t reasonably expect a person to be able to physically install wireless hardware then believe that same person is unable to secure the network with the same instructions.

Furthermore, if the individual setting up this wireless network does not want others on the wireless network then they should secure it.

People, the instructions and manual say that the wireless network will be open to the public and if you don’t want people on your network then you need to configure security.

How difficult is this? And yes, the FCC is the one in charge of the matter not the cops. Cops can’t do everything you know.

Chris Taylor (profile) says:

Let me tell you why its different :-)

How is this different from wiring a box that lets one decrypt and use satellite video signals? How is this different (other than the initial trespass) from hooking a long cable to one’s neighbor’s cable connection and using the video feed?

——————————-

Ok analogy time.

I put up a satellite antennae and I decrypt the signal I have not paid for ?

Is this wrong ? YES off course

NOW change the analogy. I plug an antennae into my TV and it picks up 200 unencrypted wide open transmissions ?

Is this wrong ? No Off Course not

Get the point yet ? the other user left it WIDE OPEN not only that but its BROADCASTING a “Here I am please connect to me signal” (the broadcast of the SSID)

SO not only are they leaving it open but they are Broadcasting a WELCOME that says here I am connect to me.

Now you tell me why it is wrong to connect to this.

If I leave my House Door wide open does this mean you can just walk into my house ? Off Course not.

NOW if I leave my door wide open and put up a flashing neon sign above it that says Please come on in.

Am I wrong to enter ?

Chris Taylor

http://www.nery.com/

Professor HighBrow says:

Sorry But....

Sorry But….

If a company or the company’s hired people that have installed insecure Wifi access doesn’t have the brains to secure their broadcast, it’s free for the taking. Now, If it were someone stealing bandwidth from another person in an apartment building, I’d say, yeah, the people are jerks; but if I don’t have the intelligence to notice it or secure my own Wi-Fi that’s my problem.

We’re not talking about someone stealing a bike off someone elses porch here, and saying “you left it out, so Its free for the taking.”

We’re saying that if you so choose to broadcast your EMF somewhere where it can be recieved, you can’t cry “foul.”

Common sense is set aside already, so now it comes down to the grit (and not because the “thief” used the service.)

Downstream or Upstream arguements are IRRELEVANT. Potentially, the alleged offernder could have used some other service for his packet requests.

This arguement boils down to inept companies trying to claim that someone stole something nearly intangable from them because they don’t even bother to secure their own network. These are RADIO WAVES, for fuck’s sake. Not some little kid’s bike or an automobile.

Anyhow, all of us nerds that even bother to comment on these articles are only increasing our own MARKETABILITY, aren’t we???

–Prof. HiBrow

Anonymous Coward says:

Radio Wave theft vs Light wave theft

Ok, so I am sitting in my backyard at night reading when my neighbor turns on his porch light and floods my backyard with “free” light. I turn mine off and continue to read. “KNOCK KNOCK!!….HOLY crap, it’s the FEDS!! I had no idea it’s against the law to use a neighbors light to read by.”

Sure, lights are everywhere and noone would ever question the legality of using the neighbors light to read by. But if I had to enter the neighbors property to turn on the light (crack encryption or passwords) then sure, fine and jail them. But if it’s freely splashing out into public space? No law broken here. Move along.

In the case of the light, if your neighbor were to complain to you and say, “Hey, use your own light.” You could simply refuse and he would either have to turn his off or shield it from your view.

Now the use of the light does not appear to diminish the bandwidth or usability of the light by the neighbor. But in a way, their sending the light all around does effect the efficiency of it. So by comparison, sending your wifi all over the place could effect its efficiency. Direct the WIFI only where you want it used and it will be more efficient for you since noone else will be on it and likewise, shield the light so that it reflects only within your property lines and it will be more efficient for you.

king nerd says:

sensitive electronics

I spend my days doing sensitive electronics work in a carefully shielded room in a lab. I can’t bring any of my work home, however, because the damn cell phone and wifi signals keep jacking with the meters. Even in MY HOUSE, someone else’s waves are there screwing with my livlihood…. I wish I could make them stop.

Jason says:

This is stupid

People the IT people should be liable, not the person that used the wifi. If you in your own house can be arrested for playing say a porno, or decide to walk around nude all in the “privacy of your house just becuase you affended someone who looked in your window or some minor saw your adult film. This is not all that different and I agree with a lot of you that say it is lame to arrest someone for using unsecure wifi.

Funkbomb says:

I've had enough of the lunacy.

When you connect to someone’s router without permission, you are stealing bandwidth.

That “It was unsecured” argument holds no water. If you leave your house unlocked, and someone walked in and snagged your TV, would you call the cops?

The cops would show up and probably say, “Well, you should have locked your doors.” That doesn’t make the person who stole your TV any less guilty. Does it?

The fact of the matter is, the guy was stealing. A person driving around and stealing wifi isn’t a WarDriver. I am a Wardriver and I NEVER connect to someone’s network without permission. It’s not possible because I turn off the settings that allow a connection to happen.

In the case where your computer “jumps” to another router because it’s a stronger signal, sorry, you are still responsible. The first time, yes, I can see it happening. But set up your computer to connect to your network only.

Quite frankly, if your computer is jumping from network to network without your control, you are horrible at networking. The last thing you want is for your computer to jump on random networks because they are stronger. It opens you up to all sorts of different problems including viruses.

Common criminal in a new age. That is all he is.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: I've had enough of the lunacy.

When you connect to someone’s router without permission, you are stealing bandwidth.

You say this, but you don’t explain why… that’s because there is no correct explanation. What is *lost*? For something to be stolen, something needs to be lost. There is nothing lost here.

That “It was unsecured” argument holds no water. If you leave your house unlocked, and someone walked in and snagged your TV, would you call the cops?

In that case, something was lost. Something tangible was taken and there was trespassing. Both are crimes. Where is the “crime” in using WiFi from a public place?

The fact of the matter is, the guy was stealing. A person driving around and stealing wifi isn’t a WarDriver. I am a Wardriver and I NEVER connect to someone’s network without permission. It’s not possible because I turn off the settings that allow a connection to happen.

Again, nothing is missing, so I don’t see how anything was “stolen”

The last thing you want is for your computer to jump on random networks because they are stronger. It opens you up to all sorts of different problems including viruses.

How does it open you up to viruses. This is amusing to me. You go on and on about how people should know enough about networking to stop their computers from jumping from network to network, but then assume those same people have no responsibility to put in even the most basic security protection on their computers?

Common criminal in a new age. That is all he is.

And yet you fail to show why. Where is the *loss*? Who is the “victim” of this crime?

Ghost says:

Re: Re: I've had enough of the lunacy.

When you connect to someone’s router without permission, you are stealing bandwidth.

You say this, but you don’t explain why… that’s because there is no correct explanation. What is *lost*? For something to be stolen, something needs to be lost. There is nothing lost here.

I will explain that point. There is a number of federal laws that cover this exactly. They all relate to illegal computer/network access. Very simply, just because it is there screaming out it’s name doesn’t give you permission to access that system. Permission must be explicit, not implied. You can and if caught, will be, arrested. It isn’t the Theft of Services charges you have to worry about. It is the federal hacking charges that will cost you several years of your life, and a substantial amount of money. Simple enough?

That “It was unsecured” argument holds no water. If you leave your house unlocked, and someone walked in and snagged your TV, would you call the cops?

In that case, something was lost. Something tangible was taken and there was trespassing. Both are crimes. Where is the “crime” in using WiFi from a public place?

It is a very similar thing, actually. How often do you think some of us hear that an end-user’s speed is not what it should be? I hear it all the time. Most of them are running a wireless router of some kind that isn’t secured. If they had taken the time to at least WEP the unit, it would have kept the typical leech off their network. They are stealing the customer’s service. They are also violating federal electronic intrusion laws. Wi-Fi, while a free radio wave, is not a right. You may scan for the signal, you may not use anything that that signal carries. Anything on a digital carrier wave is illegal to intercept. Again, that would be federal law.

Regarding the second part. If there is some kind of sign that it is permitted to connect to the wireless, go right ahead. That would not be illegal. No sign, ask. They say no, you connect anyways? Guess what, you just broke the law. That makes you a common criminal.

The fact of the matter is, the guy was stealing. A person driving around and stealing wifi isn’t a WarDriver. I am a Wardriver and I NEVER connect to someone’s network without permission. It’s not possible because I turn off the settings that allow a connection to happen.

Again, nothing is missing, so I don’t see how anything was “stolen”

Ahh, but something was indeed stolen. His digital carrier wave, which if you remember, is illegal to intercept. You had no rights to the contents of that carrier. Why do you think it is illegal to scan for cellular calls? Digital carriers. Again, you would be a thief or worse, an extortionist.

The last thing you want is for your computer to jump on random networks because they are stronger. It opens you up to all sorts of different problems including viruses.

How does it open you up to viruses. This is amusing to me. You go on and on about how people should know enough about networking to stop their computers from jumping from network to network, but then assume those same people have no responsibility to put in even the most basic security protection on their computers?

This one is simple. Do you have any understanding of just how computer literate the average person is? Most will tell you that they don’t know the first thing about how the computer/Internet works. Care to guess how much they actually know about how that wireless AP works? If you prevent your computer from connecting to a foreign network, you won’t be breaking federal interception and inrtusion laws.

Common criminal in a new age. That is all he is.

And yet you fail to show why. Where is the *loss*? Who is the “victim” of this crime?

Does this explain FunkBomb’s point?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I've had enough of the lunacy.

I will explain that point. There is a number of federal laws that cover this exactly. They all relate to illegal computer/network access. Very simply, just because it is there screaming out it’s name doesn’t give you permission to access that system.

Can you please point out the federal law that says this? Thanks.

Permission must be explicit, not implied. You can and if caught, will be, arrested. It isn’t the Theft of Services charges you have to worry about. It is the federal hacking charges that will cost you several years of your life, and a substantial amount of money. Simple enough?

Again, please point out the law. I’ve never seen anything like that.

Anything on a digital carrier wave is illegal to intercept. Again, that would be federal law.

Again, please point out the law.

Why do you think it is illegal to scan for cellular calls? Digital carriers. Again, you would be a thief or worse, an extortionist.

That’s different. Those are encrypted signals. These are open. There’s a big difference.

This one is simple. Do you have any understanding of just how computer literate the average person is?

You completely missed my point on this one. First he implied that everyone was perfectly computer literate by saying there’s no excuse for not knowing how to configure your system not to jump from network to network, but then in the very next breath assumes that everyone is computer illiterate by suggesting if you do jump from network to network, you’ll get viruses (something that is actually extremely unlikely).

I was simply pointing out the internal inconsistency. Not suggesting that either view was right.



Does this explain FunkBomb’s point?

Nope. So far all you explained was that there was some unknown law that makes using WiFi illegal — even though that’s not what this guy was charged with (he was charged with theft of service, which you say is not what you’re discussing).

So, basically, you’re saying that what happened here is fine because the guy was charged with a different law, but he was breaking some other law that you don’t explain.

Yeah, clear as mud.

Ghost says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I've had enough of the lunacy.

I would heartily suggest you try something called research before opening your gob again.

Here is the pertainent law regarding Digital Communications.

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode47/usc_sup_01_47_10_9_20_I.html

Here is the pertainent law regarding Electronic Trespass.

http://www.panix.com/~eck/computer-fraud-act.html

Funkbomb says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I've had enough of the lunacy.

The law is called, “Theft of services”. You can get busted for splicing into the cable lines illegally too.

Have you ever looked at your ISP’s Terms of Service? A lot of them say you can’t run a server (Ftp, HTTP, DNS, IRC etc) because if you get a lot of views, you’ll hog too much bandwidth.

Yes, bandwidth is a real item. And that is what is being stolen!

As for the viruses, if you hooked up to my router (I run a closed network but still monitor it because I have the fastest line in my neighborhood), I have no problems sending an array of different files into your system. I keep them lined up and ready to go. Goatse, Tubgirl, some harmless but not so nice executables.

Also remember, if you are on MY NETWORK, I have pretty good access to your computer and will screw you over in the hardest of ways. Why? Because I’m a jerk.

There are folks out there, hardcore wardrivers, who know the systems better than me, who can set up all sorts of routers that will direct you to wherever they want.

You know jack about computers. Pack it up and send it back.

Funkbomb says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I've had enough of the lunacy.

Mike,

Let me ask you this. Your car is parked on the street. Some hoodlum steals it for a joyride. On his way back, he replaces the gasoline. Then parks it in front of your house, right where you left it. Would you mind if he did this?

I would.

Suppose you wanted to use your car? But you couldn’t because some knucklehead has it?

Just because you have another car (additional bandwidth), doesn’t mean it was right for someone to take the other one, without permission!

Ghost says:

Re: Re: Re:5 RE: I've had enough of the lunacy

Funkbomb,

Again, you’re describing an analogy that doesn’t match. The car is a tangible thing that only one person can use at a time.

How does this one work…

I use BitTorrent, and saturate your upload. There is your car. Suddenly, you can no longer use your connection because some leech decided to be an ever-loving jerk and use you to pirate the latest new release. Congratulations, you no longer have your connection. And quite possibly, you no longer have your freedom either. Contributory Infringement. There are hundreds of reasons to secure your wireless, and to not use someone elses without their permission. You do not have explicit permission? Stay out of what isn’t yours. Remember, the Computer Fraud act will catch up with you in the end. All it takes is one jerk, and a number of logs.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 RE: I've had enough of the lunacy

I use BitTorrent, and saturate your upload.

Yup, and that’s a specific case. We’ve discussed that in the past. Overloading someone’s bandwidth is a different issue.

But that’s NOT what happened here.

So why trot out the hypotheticals. Look at what actually happened, and explain what this guy did wrong?

E-Scapegoat says:

All wifi here are legally required to be encrypted

It’s illegal to have an unencrypted wifi connection in my state. It’s part of the law that makes it illegal to tap into somebody’s cable or phone service, and has already been held up in court. The broadband providers that offer wireless routers are required to set them up already wep encrypted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Using the same analogy as the unlocked car previously mentioned. What exactly would the police say if you reported something stolen from your car, then explain to them you left your car unlocked….. Mostly likely they would roll their eyes at you and tell you to be more wise next time. then it would fall into the massive pile of reports filed ‘get to it last’

iTech (user link) says:

Wow

The amount of comments for this article shows about how important this issure really is. I guess I can contribute my two cents:

It IS the responsibility of the business/owner to secure its network. The individual should not be fined simply for using an OPEN network. It would be different if he airsnorted and broke into a protected area. Its just like saying that plugging in a laptop in Starbucks (for simple typing not internet usage) is theft of electricity.

iTech @ http://itech.webwarp.net

uncredible criminal says:

feedback from a "cheap", "common criminal"

The wifi signal Im stealing is a little shaky, cus the cops took my cantenna, so this may be a double posting, which is also theft, as pointied out in a previous post. I guess stealing wifi is a “gateway crime” and next Ill be selling crack. If only the cable people would come here on time and install my farkin cable broadband, my soul would be saved… And by the way, Im pretty sure Ill leave my connection open, you know, to pay back some binary Karma. I would write a thankyou note if the person supplying this connection would only supply thier address in thier SSID on thier non-wep wap.

-uc, in guilt

bob100 (user link) says:

You little pricks should all go directly to jail f

What makes you all think it is your right to take something some one has to pay for? Jerks! You should all go directly to jail for this. I have been hoping for this day for a long time.

Who the hell am I? I am an ISP who is sick of having my bandwidth sucked up by you f..ing freeloaders. Bandwidth is expensive.

A broadband connection only works because it is not used most of the time. That is business. You think you have to right to take a 3 meg pipe and saturate it 24/7? Grow up.

That much dedicated bandwidth cost hundreds per month. You think you can pay 30 or 40 per month and you have the right to file share and overload the pipe. Think again children. When you some day have to pay your own bills you will get it. That is those of you who have more then 2 brain cells.

a little prick says:

Re: You little pricks should all go directly to ja

“You think you have to right to take a 3 meg pipe and saturate it 24/7?”

That sounds like a really whiney excuse for bad infrastructure.

“You think you can pay 30 or 40 per month and you have the right to file share and overload the pipe.”

You should try to offer things that consumers want, not try to vilify paying customers

Thats the very epitomy of what business I would avoid in the industry. You should get a new attitude or get therapy to cope with this unwanted reality.

Or get a job at AT&T, they’d like youre ideals.

coldsteel says:

This is beginning to sound like an urban myth. First off how do the cops know he’s stealing anything? Was there a huge CANTENNA hanging off his car roof or something? You cant just look at a laptop and say its got wifi and even if it did that the radio was turned on and in use mines usually OFF when im mobile as why add to the battery drain. Story just sounds bogus as theres no grounds for the initial search, let alone an an arrest that I’ve heard here.

Lou says:

Its Stealing

Access a private unsecured signal is stealing. Just as walking into house because the owner left the door wide open is stealing.

The guy parked in a parking lot new what he was doing. he had no authorization to access that signal even if it is unsecured.

At the very least he was loittering which is a crime in 95% of America.

I am all for securing Wi-Fi I do it. But I do not access private open Wi-Fi spots because its praying on the ignorance of people.

90% of people buy Wi-Fi linksys boxes and have no clue how to secure and they manage to even setup by a miracle of god. Does that mean your free to surf and download porn or anything else over their Wi-Fi connection. NOO.

Grow up and get a job. if you need mobile wireless, get a blackberry or treo, or a EVDO Card from Verizon or sprint. If you cant afford it tough nuts but stop leaching other people stuff.

Anonymous Coward says:

this is perfectly acceptable

…in a police state.

The open wifi transmitted a signal out to public space. Why is it doing that?

WiFi requires bi-directional communication, if he were just intercepting something like streaming there would be no theft of services. He actively went back across their property to get access.

He transmitted a signal in public space. The other end was not obliged to do anything with it.

Another point, don’t charges have to be pressed. If I use my own home wifi from my car, there’s no crime. My friends wifi, no crime.

amazing how what would have been considered completely unacceptable six years ago is almost embraced now.

TheGuy says:

Dumb shits

Probably every ISP says you cannot share your bandwidth outside of your property, they think you are sharing they can shut off your service. So you have open Wifi, it does not matter. Every STATE has laws about theft of services, that includes using Wifi. It is pretty much electronic trespassing. You are using there floppy bits on a processor, which is unathorised access to a computer system. Every router has a processor in it. You are stealing. People here has the stupidest freaking ideas trying to justify stealing, one moron tried to say he was a cop. The cop in the origianal story probably had a reason to talk to him, just was not printed in the story.

Cops love doing a sting operation, they buy a bike over $5000, then leave it in front of a shitty market. Someone comes along and steals it, guess what, it cost just over the felony amount so it is a felony even though it was out in the open in a public place.

ICantbelieveyouatethewholething says:

Using a connection w/o permission is Stealing

If I don’t pay my bill for my internet access, it gets shut off. YOU scuzzballs don’t pay my bill, I do. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT to use my connection, if it is encrypted or not. It’s just the same with ANYBODY who puts an AP on the air and hooks it to their internet connection so they can pad around the house in their jammies with their laptop. Most of the time, it’s plain old ignorance.

I can’t believe you IDIOTS who say “Oh, I only check my email quickly, it really doesn’t hurt anything.” ARE YOU REALLY -THAT- stupid?! You can get your email address HIJACKED and it could be used to send threatening letters to the President or something. You want to see how FAST the Secret Service could be knocking on your door?

“Oh, I’m safe, I use a secured connection when I steal bandwith for my email.” You gotta be kidding. It is ‘script kiddie easily do-able’ to setup a bunch of APs with some software to capture and break your so called ‘secure’ connection -on the fly- when you think you’re so cool connecting to that open AP.

“Oh, I leave mine open so anybody can use it, and that makes me feel all fuzzy and warm! That way, when I’m stealing somebody elses connection, I can try to justify it.”

This is another case of idots run amok. You really WANT the cops kicking in your door looking for the source of the stream of kiddy porn that has been steadily being fed to the internet through your connection?

Reading the preceding messages on here makes me realize how low the common denominator really is.

Ghost says:

Re: Re:

does it make any difference if you give away wireless connections ?

Yes, it does. It would be a violation of most ISPs Terms of Service (ToS). The way ISPs work, is that they assume you are only going to use an average of ten to twenty percent of your total allocated bandwidth. This is called Shared Bandwidth. Most cable companies, such as Charter and Comcast, use this type of planning. What this means for you is simple, lets say that a leech hooked onto your network. This person/being/whatever-you-want-to-call-it decides to download some program. I will use something I had to deal with at work, Windows Vista Beta Build 3375. They start the torrent for this program, it gets noticed by someone at MediaSentry. They inform the BSA, and they subpeona your identity from the ISP. You are now responsible for the actions of some jerk in one of the adjancent houses. Why? Because you decided to be a nice guy and let them. For this, you got your tail sued by Microsoft, through the BSA.

If you allow someone onto your network without knowing who they are, you are opening yourself up to people using your connection to break into secured sites on the ‘Net or worse…

There are a lot of reasons why you should secure your APs and keep the leeches off your network. As was mentioned before, once they are on your network it doesn’t take long for your computer to be compromised.

Answer your question?

Funkbomb says:

Let’s put it this way then.

You have cable TV at your house. It’s crystal clear, no problems. You pay 30 bucks a month for this service.

I move in next door. I jump up on the phone poll and I splice into it.

You are still paying 30 bucks a month but now the picture is degraded because I am hijacking your line.

In your eyes, I’m not doing anything wrong! I’m not physically stealing anything.

My defense could be, “Hey, if you didn’t want me stealing your cable, you should have coated your cable line in diamonds so I couldn’t cut it.”

Please don’t procreate.

Mike (user link) says:

Re:

I move in next door. I jump up on the phone poll and I splice into it.

Well, let’s start with the obvious… you’ve broken the law by going on the poll and opening the box.

The situation with WiFi is completely different. That’s a case where you are *broadcasting* the signal out off of your property. There’s no trespassing. There’s no splicing.

Second, degradation of service is a different issue and not applicable here.

Please don’t procreate.

Yup, thanks for debating this on a civil level and not resorting to personal insults. It really helps your credibility.

Ghost says:

Simple terms, for a simple mind.

He knowingly, and intentionally, connected to a network that was not his. He could have been charged under federal statutes.

From the synopsis at the top, he was charged with ‘Theft of Service.’ What that means, is that he intercepted and used a service he was not paying for. That is theft. Simple enough so far? He seriously lucked out in that the prosecutor in charge of the case didn’t refer him for federal charges.

Answer this, what is more important? The twenty-five to fifty dollars for a DSL or cable connection, or your freedom. Google Wi-Fi hacking, you will see a number of people who did exactly what he did. They got caught, and were arrested. They were charged under the same federal laws I have already mentioned. This is literally access the router, go to jail. Otherwise known as Electronic Trespass. Using something that isn’t yours. More commonly known as theft. Modifying the code for the Point of Sale equipment to capture and hold credit card numbers. Commonly called Computer Fraud/Hacking.

Notice the trend?

Bandwidth is not free. Just because you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong isn’t an excuse for breaking the law. If you want proof of this, go get a leased line(T-1) and see how much it will cost you to keep that kind of bandwidth.

Might I recommend you go to Google and do research. I will even give you a couple of things to look for, Electronic Trespass, Wi-Fi Hacking, Theft of Service.

Unless you want to see what some of the people who have been blasting this forum, are capable of with cattleprods and flamethrowers. Don’t go spouting off nonsense.

It is Theft. Read the laws, understand the laws. Find the ones that apply to you, and abide by them.

Mike (user link) says:

Re:

Simple terms, for a simple mind.

Personal insults really help your credibility. I take you that much more seriously now for calling me simple minded…

You know, it is possible for intelligent people to disagree. Calling them stupid doesn’t help your argument.

He knowingly, and intentionally, connected to a network that was not his. He could have been charged under federal statutes.

The network was open, and invited his computer to connect. Show me the federal statute that makes that a crime.

From the synopsis at the top, he was charged with ‘Theft of Service.’ What that means, is that he intercepted and used a service he was not paying for. That is theft. Simple enough so far?

Nope. Not simple enough. Theft involves loss. Show me the loss.

If it’s a different crime, that’s a different issue. But show me the loss here. Show me why it’s theft, becaues just saying it is over and over again doesn’t actually make it theft.

Answer this, what is more important? The twenty-five to fifty dollars for a DSL or cable connection, or your freedom.

That’s got nothing to do with the question at hand. It’s not about the punishment, but whether or not there’s a crime. And there are plenty of reasons why someone may want to use an open WiFi connection even if they do pay their money for a connection at home. What if he was travelling?

They were charged under the same federal laws I have already mentioned.

You haven’t actually mentioned any.

This is literally access the router, go to jail. Otherwise known as Electronic Trespass.

It’s not trespass, because the router is open, available and inviting. If people went to jail for it, it’s only becaue they had a bad lawyer.

Using something that isn’t yours. More commonly known as theft.

Again, theft involves something being taken and missing. Not so in this case.

Modifying the code for the Point of Sale equipment to capture and hold credit card numbers. Commonly called Computer Fraud/Hacking.

Yup. That’s computer fraud and hacking. The case above is quite different.

Notice the trend?

The trend being… a bunch of incorrect analogies?

Bandwidth is not free. Just because you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong isn’t an excuse for breaking the law. If you want proof of this, go get a leased line(T-1) and see how much it will cost you to keep that kind of bandwidth.

Again, totally missing the point. Bandwidth is not free indeed… but how much more is it costing the non-profit for this guy to use the network in the middle of the night? Turns out… zero. So in this case, the guy isn’t costing anyone anything. So, the rest of your argument is (once again) wrong.

Might I recommend you go to Google and do research. I will even give you a couple of things to look for, Electronic Trespass, Wi-Fi Hacking, Theft of Service.

I’ve done my research. I’m still waiting for you to prove something.

Unless you want to see what some of the people who have been blasting this forum, are capable of with cattleprods and flamethrowers. Don’t go spouting off nonsense.

Yup. Keeping it civil. Thanks.

It is Theft. Read the laws, understand the laws. Find the ones that apply to you, and abide by them.

Again, it’s not theft. Keep trying.

Anonymous Coward says:

I've had enough of the lun

Let me ask you this. Your car is parked on the street. Some hoodlum steals it for a joyride. On his way back, he replaces the gasoline. Then parks it in front of your house, right where you left it. Would you mind if he did this?

I would.

Hmmm I dunno. Most likely (unless they also vacuumed it out for me, could sure use it right now lol), but then it depends on circumstances and my mood. Not everyone is always so hellfire bent about “protecting” their property at all times, although admittedly some random person borrowing your car is a little outside most people’s acceptablility range including mine.

On the other hand, to use a different example, we can’t have “open” radiios at work, so most of us have cds players with headphones. We all bring cds collections (although mine is by far the largest) and most of us have an open policy about free borrowing from each other (although as a common courtesy most of still ask, or at least let the owner know they have a particular cd so we know where it is if we come looking for it) as long as we return them when we are done.

The big assumption here is that the WiFi owner would necessarily have objected to the use of his “property”. Who’s to say they don’t leave the connection open, at least at night when nobody is likely using it, intentionally, like some posters say they do. If the owner doesn’t consider it theft then is it really theft? I say, no.

Of course the big corps are likely to say yes, but I consider them to be some of the biggest crooks of all whose only concept of morality is how big a profit margin they can squeeze.

Anonymous Coward says:

I've had enough of the lunacy.

I will explain that point. There is a number of federal laws that cover this exactly. They all relate to illegal computer/network access. Very simply, just because it is there screaming out it’s name doesn’t give you permission to access that system. Permission must be explicit, not implied. You can and if caught, will be, arrested. It isn’t the Theft of Services charges you have to worry about. It is the federal hacking charges that will cost you several years of your life, and a substantial amount of money. Simple enough?

If you don’t believe in implied permissions, then I hope you got TechDirt’s explicit permission before you accessed their web site. If not, then I suggest you try to turn yourself in to the FBI for “hacking” as you put it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

You have cable TV at your house. It’s crystal clear, no problems. You pay 30 bucks a month for this service.

I move in next door. I jump up on the phone poll and I splice into it.

As was pointed out before with a similiar example, this alanogy only if your talking about a “closed system”.

An open system is more analogous to moving in and hooking up your cable line to your tv and discovering you already have cable access (like I did – turns out free basic cable was part of the rent, but the landlady forget to mention it).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Link to 18 U.S.C. 1030.:

http://www.panix.com/~eck/computer-fraud-act.html

You want the loss?

How about the $200 dollars in packets that the ISP was charged for his traffic? Sufficient for you? If they are using a residential level service for the Non-Profit, he increased the traffic on the connecting. Costing them part of the cap on thier service for the month. Does that work?

Example:

Person A has Internet. Person B does not. They live in a duplex. 2 computers. 1 router, wireless. Person A sets up his router. Person B notices the AP is active. Person B starts using person A’s connection. Assume ISP is Comcast. Person B uses 100% of person a’s allocated transfer. Person A is rate limited to 128/128 service until next transfer period.

Person B, when caught, is guilty of Theft of Service, and Computer Fraud. Simply by connecting to that AP.

Specifc Federal statute: 18 U.S.C. 1030.

Ghost says:

I've had enough of the lunacy.

I will explain that point. There is a number of federal laws that cover this exactly. They all relate to illegal computer/network access. Very simply, just because it is there screaming out it’s name doesn’t give you permission to access that system. Permission must be explicit, not implied. You can and if caught, will be, arrested. It isn’t the Theft of Services charges you have to worry about. It is the federal hacking charges that will cost you several years of your life, and a substantial amount of money. Simple enough?

If you don’t believe in implied permissions, then I hope you got TechDirt’s explicit permission before you accessed their web site. If not, then I suggest you try to turn yourself in to the FBI for “hacking” as you put it.

Techdirt happens to have a Terms of Service. Part of that, happens to be explicit permission to access the site.

I suggest you look into Contract law.

Mike (user link) says:

Re:

Link to 18 U.S.C. 1030.:

http://www.panix.com/~eck/computer-fraud-act.html

Doesn’t apply in a case where the network is broadcasting into public spaces and open.

At *best* you can say it’s not clear. It’s definitely not certain.

You want the loss?

How about the $200 dollars in packets that the ISP was charged for his traffic? Sufficient for you? If they are using a residential level service for the Non-Profit, he increased the traffic on the connecting. Costing them part of the cap on thier service for the month. Does that work?

You have evidence that there was an actual loss here? Did they have a cap? Did they go over the cap? If they had a cap then it’s their responsibility to make sure the network isn’t used to go over the cap, or if they leave it open, to pay for that usage.

Person A has Internet. Person B does not. They live in a duplex. 2 computers. 1 router, wireless. Person A sets up his router. Person B notices the AP is active. Person B starts using person A’s connection. Assume ISP is Comcast. Person B uses 100% of person a’s allocated transfer. Person A is rate limited to 128/128 service until next transfer period.

Person B, when caught, is guilty of Theft of Service, and Computer Fraud. Simply by connecting to that AP.

Hmm. You again make assumptions about the amount of usage, none of which are necessarily true. You’re setting up very specific cases — most of which are unlikely to actually be the case.

If I similarly set up cases, what if person B uses just a tiny bit of bandwidth when person A is not online, causing absolutely no disruption of service or increased cost?

You see the problem with your argument? You are talking about specific situations. Deal with those specific situations, don’t generalize them to every connection.

stuarttaylor says:

Just to put this into context, let’s say that you are aware that your neighbour leaves their house in the morning and doesn’t lock the door, this doesn’t give you the right to enter their, plug your computer into their network, and use the internet.

Just because the network is a wireless connection, and your not physically inside their house, still doesn’t give you the right to use their network without explicit permission.

Mike (user link) says:

Re:

Just to put this into context, let’s say that you are aware that your neighbour leaves their house in the morning and doesn’t lock the door, this doesn’t give you the right to enter their, plug your computer into their network, and use the internet.

Again, that’s trespassing. If they’re broadcasting the signal onto your property or onto public property… there’s no trespassing.

mark says:

What about...

You cannot expect brillance from ignorance. A PC is a huge portion of “everyones” live. Yet a huge portion of our population are “clueless” about its use.

The police officer should be tested on his understanding and level of PC andor networking knowledge.

The user of Wifi should also be asked what are you doing parked in front of a building in the middle of the night? You would get shot in Alabama for that!

mark says:

What about...

You cannot expect brillance from ignorance. A PC is a huge portion of “everyones” live. Yet a huge portion of our population are “clueless” about its use.

The police officer should be tested on his understanding and level of PC andor networking knowledge.

The user of Wifi should also be asked what are you doing parked in front of a building in the middle of the night? You would get shot in Alabama for that!

I have morals and ethics says:

The arguement is this:

Did the not-for-profit want people to use the signal?

Not whether or not it’s unencrypted or what time of day it is or where you are.

Well, you don’t know. But most would assume that since this isn’t an internet cafe or such that has a sign that says “Free wifi” then the owner didn’t want the signal to be used by the public.

So, now you’re gonna argue that because it’s unencrypted that it their fault for not securing it if they didn’t want people to use it.

That’s where the problem lies you assume to your advantage and think that it’s free for the taking.

Now the analogies begin. I haven’t found a valid analogy yet. You can’t compare stealing a wireless signal to open doors, water hoses or reading lights. Its not the same.

So, what’s wrong with using the unencrypted connection? Well, the owner is paying for the electricity to run it and he’s paying the internet bill. How do you know he’s not on per byte payment plan. You assume he’s got unlimited usage. So, you argue it’s in the middle of the night the I’m using bandwidth that would otherwise go unused.

How do you know the bandwidth is wasted? You’re on the wireless side. How do you know this office isn’t running a system backup to remote server? How do yo know they aren’t running file servers and an office on teh other side of the world is doing something?

You don’t.

The way I see it if you’re using the connection you’re the type of person that keep a $100.00 bill if it blew out of your neighbor’s hand and into your yard. You have a completely different set of morals and ethics that make you feel you deserve it.

You think that because there isn’t a physical connection that’s it’s harmless and it’s free.

Maybe there is or isn’t a law that says exactly “Using an unsecured wifi connection, in a parking lot, in the middle of the night is a crime.” It doesn’t matter, current laws can be interpretated by the courts to say it is.

It’s just plain wrong that you people feel that unsecured = free for the taking.

Rick says:

DHCP people!

DHCP !

DHCP !

For those of you with a IQ less than 100: Wifi says “I am here!”, you say “can I use you?”, Wifi says “Yes, here’s an IP and gateway address so you can access the internet, and here’s a lease of time for you to use the connection”.

DONE! There’s your permission and even an electronic contract for time (renewable).

And starbucks and/or mcdonalds little permission screens are exactly the same (you go to screen, ask for permission, then it’s granted). Same, same.

D H C P ! !

For the other stupid posts against free open access and the original article, it’s got to be scare tactics and FUD from all these telco companies because right now TODAY they are all trying to buy out all the small wifi companies and offer wifi service (via 802.11b) in many towns.

It won’t go over well if they can’t lock down all those open wifi routers out there. These are greedy bastards!

I see Godwin coming.. says:

DHCP? Oh geeze. Did the owner of the AP say it’s ok to use the connection? Just because a computer is configure to allow easy configuration doesn’t grant permission.

Next thing your gonna tell me that the welcome mat on my porch means someone can walk into my house or if I leave my car running and the door open in my driveway I did that so you could hop in and take it to do errands?

All of the people they are trying to say it’s ok only take the arguement, analogy, logic to the point where it’s agrees with their point of view. However, this is very short point. If you keep extending the logic you quickly find that it’s not black and white. There’s a helluva lota grey area and the grey is what everyone’s arguing about. The grey area is what gets you in trouble.

Getting permission from the owner eliminates the grey area for you. Of course the owner may not know that his TOS agreement forbids sharing the connection. So, there’s a new slightly lighter grey area.

Icantbelieveyouatethewholething says:

Are You Dense?

Did YOU pay for the service? No? Then YOU have NO right to use it, unless EXPLICITLY granted permission.

DHCP? WTF?

Are you COMPLETELY dense? DHCP was developed to ease network management in a WIRED WORLD before wireless. Just because it has been implemented on a wireless network does NOT imply permission to use said network. Just because it happens to hand out a ‘gateway address’ that allows the connected device to talk to a device that eventually leads to the internet doesn’t mean squat.

Your wife goes to the beauty parlor for a shampoo. They don’t really ‘change’ or take away anything, (except some body oils and dirt,) they just wash her hair. Let her try and walk out without paying for it. Theft of services.

Bottom line. I pay the bill to bring the connection into my house. You don’t. You use the connection without permission. Theft of services. If I were using one of the ISPs in my area, they have a 40Gbit/month limit. You sneak on my net and download a movie. I, thinking I have enough room to get a big download of my own. Wrongo! I get a bill for overage charges! So the meter IS running, and I’m paying for it. You aren’t.

Is that simple enough for you?

“I didn’t have sex with that women, Monica Lewinsky.”

Icantbelieveyouatethewholething says:

Are You Dense?

Did YOU pay for the service? No? Then YOU have NO right to use it, unless EXPLICITLY granted permission.

DHCP? WTF?

Are you COMPLETELY dense? DHCP was developed to ease network management in a WIRED WORLD before wireless. Just because it has been implemented on a wireless network does NOT imply permission to use said network. Just because it happens to hand out a ‘gateway address’ that allows the connected device to talk to a device that eventually leads to the internet doesn’t mean squat.

Your wife goes to the beauty parlor for a shampoo. They don’t really ‘change’ or take away anything, (except some body oils and dirt,) they just wash her hair. Let her try and walk out without paying for it. Theft of services.

Bottom line. I pay the bill to bring the connection into my house. You don’t. You use the connection without permission. Theft of services. If I were using one of the ISPs in my area, they have a 40Gbit/month limit. You sneak on my net and download a movie. I, thinking I have enough room to get a big download of my own. Wrongo! I get a bill for overage charges! So the meter IS running, and I’m paying for it. You aren’t.

Is that simple enough for you?

“I didn’t have sex with that women, Monica Lewinsky.”

Sick and Tired of people thinking they can use my says:

Re:

Ah, but there is a trespass.

You connected to private property. By using the free radio waves that are being broadcast onto your property, you connected to something that isn’t yours. You are routing traffic through an infrstructure that you did not invest in. You are doing this under the assumption it is allowed.

Get a clue. It is called Theft of Services. It is also Electronic Trespass. Connecting to a computer you do not own without permission is illegal. 18 U.S.C. 1030 is pretty clear on that point. A router is a very specialized type of computer. If you don’t have permission to connect to it, you are in violation of this law. Simple enough so far.

The loss? Again, simple enough. How do you know what kind of service they have? Are you paying for it? No? Hmm…. This would be Theft of Services. Like it or not, what you are describing is nothing less then theft. I work for an ISP that uses Wi-Fi for wireless internet. We find you on one of our towers without an account open with us, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. ISPs are able to track the usage, and notify the end user when they notice unusual activity on a connection.

You want a specific situation? Easy enough. This kid in Rockford, by using something that he did not pay for is guilty of Theft of Service. That law has been made to apply to everything from Party line phones to Satellite TV services. You use it without permission, you are guilty of theft of service. Read up on this law and others, as they vary from state to state. However, the federal level laws will take priority, due to the supremecy clause in the Constitution.

I hope I kept this AOL enough for everyone here.

zoobuhs says:

by Anonymous Patriot on Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 2:04p

“The arguments here – if they can be called that – all boil down to one of two world views, …”

Amen, & Amen. Thank you for trying to peel back the filter we fail to realize we use when crafting our arguments.

Also, I think if people would read through the previously posted responses they would be less inclined to share the my-front-door-is-open-but-you-can’t-come-in analogy for the 37th time.

LISTEN!…then speak.

zoobuhs says:

by Anonymous Patriot on Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 2:04p

“The arguments here – if they can be called that – all boil down to one of two world views, …”

Amen, & Amen. Thank you for trying to peel back the filter we fail to realize we use when crafting our arguments.

Also, I think if people would read through the previously posted responses they would be less inclined to share the my-front-door-is-open-but-you-can’t-come-in analogy for the 37th time.

LISTEN!…then speak.

James Keller says:

Better Example

My local Home Depot has remote Cat5 jacks in the parking lot at the base of some of the overhead light poles. They use these in the summer for tent sales where a check out station can plug into one Cat5e for networking, and the other is for a phone.

As with the WiFi – there is no locked cover over at least one of these jacks. Assuming they allowed internet access from this port, I could drive up at any hour and run a cable out of my car to the port and do the same thing as this guy was doing.

Could I make the argument that they should have secure the physical port? (ie WAP / WEP / Non Broadcased SSID etc)

I would get slaped with tresspassing at least, and theft of services as well most likely.

And now for something completely different (user link) says:

It's a case by case basis.

EXAMPLE: If I’m running WIFI in my appartment for example, and so is my neighbor, if both of us were retarded and had no security (wep/wap etc) and let the system automatically connect (non ad-hoc) there’s a good chance (considering antenna dynamics and siginal strength), that i’d be on his network sometimes and he’d be on mine.

I’ve worked on some odd cases where a neighboring siginal overpowered the local one (both happened to be set on the same channel and band) and since they both had the same hardware, the default name of the devices were the same. you couldnt easily tell which device you were connected to until I set up some security and changed the default name and MAC of the base station.

So simply using another wifi connection isint grounds for jailtime alone– sometimes it’s stupidity, sometimes it’s lack of planning and implementation but yeah, i gotta admit, sometimes it’s theft. jail-worthy? no, i dont think so.

but consider this: lets say he used that connection to brodcast the next great melissailoveuetc virus that turns your NTFS partitions to liquid shit. It’s the company’s fault for not securing the connection, but he still used SOMEONE ELSES PAID FOR network to do his evil bidding.

I say he should have to pay for the companies costs of hiring a good tech and setting up some security. that’d be fair, yeah?

Steve says:

Re:

“Get a clue. It is called Theft of Services. It is also Electronic Trespass. Connecting to a computer you do not own without permission is illegal. 18 U.S.C. 1030 is pretty clear on that point. A router is a very specialized type of computer. If you don’t have permission to connect to it, you are in violation of this law. Simple enough so far. ”

*****************

Does that include web servers?

Did you get permission to post here?

Did you get permission to to connect to every router and switch between your location and this server?

Dave says:

An argument from comics

There is a lawyer and comic book writer named Bob Ingersoll who wrote a column for a while called “The Law is a Ass”. In one column he discusses Spider-Man picking up a solid gold notebook that was in a wastebasket, and he explains that because it was in the garbage the owner had shown that he had no interest in it, so Spidey was witihin the law to keep it (I don’t think it was gold when it was thrown out,. though). Is it possible that not securing a network connection that is accessible from outside your property is an implied statement that you don’t care who else uses it? Just a thought here, I can see both sides of tis argument and I have not yet decided which side I am on (though I am leaning towards “not guilty”).

Matt says:

Is it OK to tap cable, then?

So, by this line of arguing, if my condo neighbor’s cable or satellite line is installed where I can access it from a common area, I can just install a splitter and pipe their signal into my TV?

Wow. Thanks. I saved me $60/month and it won’t cost my neighbor a thing!

Does this line of logic really help anyone sleep at night?

Mayhem says:

You guys are idiots

“They should have secured their wireless network!”

On the same token — YOU SHOULD LOCK YOUR DOORS BEFORE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOUSE. Otherwise I should be able to walk in freely and use your facilities. But don’t charge me with trespassing — you should have locked your doors. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been tempted.

Hack000 says:

How about some personal responsibility

Sure it is, most broadband (mainly DSL) internet providers offer unlimited bandwidth with their basic packages so companies and such do not have any reason to complain about their bandwidth being used up and having them getting charged extra. Second if the company doesnt want others using there connection then they should place an encryption on their WiFi connection. I currently own an unlimited bandwidth T3 broadband line and I own about 5 seperate locations where my WiFi connection is broadcast out of, my home has an unencrypted line while my other 4 business locations have encrypted lines. I don’t really care if people use my WiFi connection near my house or not without my consent, and the only reason I have my business locations encrypted is because there are many other WiFi connection in the area and I do not want somebody to connect to the wrong WiFi. If my connection was the only one in the area, then I wouldnt have an encryption. So, to put it simply, it is the companies or organizations fault for having people access their WiFi connection without their consent. But yet, on the other hand, it CAN ALSO be the fault of the person who is using the connection if they know that the WiFi connection isn’t there to use. Some cities like the one I live in have local WiFi connection locations for the public to use, so if theirs enterferes with an organizations then they should get that fixed. Enough said by me, goodday, goodlife, goodbye.

Garner (user link) says:

FUD from the telecommunications companies is on the rise. I bet you can’t even find this case anywhere and the guy probably got a parking ticket or something.

Reminds me of the FUD being launched about vontage and 911 calls being delayed.

These companies will go to any length to make a profit and keep their share of the market.

See this: http://www.vonage-forum.com/ftopic11631.html

Anonymous Coward says:

Is it OK to tap cable, then?

“So, by this line of arguing, if my condo neighbor’s cable or satellite line is installed where I can access it from a common area, I can just install a splitter and pipe their signal into my TV?

Wow. Thanks. I saved me $60/month and it won’t cost my neighbor a thing!

Does this line of logic really help anyone sleep at night?”

****************

Cable does not use the public radio spectrum, so it is different. But Satellite TV is the same. As long as the signal is un-encrypted, is is perfectly legal to view TV from a satellite signal. There are several satellites that broadcast foreign language programming that are free to receive.

The same is true of Wi-Fi.

If it’s encrypted, it falls under the DMCA, and it’s illegal to decode without authorization. If it’s unencrypted, it’s not protected.

The Tuna says:

Police authority using an excuse

If the analogy of ‘theft of services’ were to apply, the purchases of the WiFi service (in this case, the non-profit compan) would have to file a complaint. The fact that a cop took it on himself to arrest the guy without a complaint being filed from the “aggreived party” shows that civil authorities are not concerned with the act as much as they are with the excuse it gives them to interfere in the lives of private citizens. If the non-profit caught the guy stealing bandwidth and complained, then yeah, the guy goes to jail. BUT offering internet access WiFi to others for free can be a political or economic act, and within the rights of the organization to give away if they so choose. The cop should have written the guy a ticket, and notified the non-profit, who then has a choice to press charges or not; and secure their network or not. Taking the right of distribution away from the actual purchaser of the service is another step toward the deification of property over the lives/choices of individuals. Seems human value lies either in our ability to consume or produce, nothing more.

ScrappyLaptop says:

Lame

Except that in the case of an open WAP, the access point is sending out a signal that says, “I am here, would you like to connect”. The analogy is actually fairly accurate, just not in the way that the poster intended. Check out the details of Wifi protocols; it’s a bit like setting a lemonade stand out at the curb with a sign that says, “Free, help yourself”…and then a police officer tickets or arrests you for stealing!

Rich says:

It's Stealing

Being an IT person, it really bothers that the AP was not secured, but that doesn’t give the person the right to use it.

If I leave my wallet open in a public place (because I am an idiot), does that give someone the right to walk up and take my money. I don’t think anyone would be OK with someone who decides they are going to splice in to you cable TV connection without you knowing.

Someone pays for the broadband connection, so that person owns it.

Let’s call it what it is. It’s stealing.. Plain and simple.

Mike says:

I heard that the main reason it’s illegal to access other people WiFi is because people like pedophiles could potentially download whatever filth it was they were downloading and the IP address would lead back to the owner of the WiFi, leaving the pedophile to get away. I’d have no problem with people stealing my WiFi if they were just checking e-mail and the like, but not for downloading massive files and eating into my bandwidth.

Anonymous Coward says:

There are different subjects going on in this thread all blurrig together.

Access Points that are free by intention (some coffee shops, hetc) are one topic and ones that were not intented to be free (someones home or bussiness for use by employees) are quite another.

Also is seems the debate is about the law is vs what everyone thinks should be the law or their opinion of what is ethical or not.

Ryozu (user link) says:

Wireless and the airwaves.

All of these anologies are bunk. You can’t compare the physical loss of a TV being stolen with the virtual loss of your connection slowing down. You can’t lock your door and your TV magically be back where it was, but you CAN lock your connection at any time.

Please allow me to make a more appropriate anology. Say you go to walmart and buy a couple of FRS radios (Family Radio Service, FYI) and run around town with a friend talking to each other. If you choose one of the public channels, and someone else starts using that channel at the same time, is it illegal? They’re using YOUR radio equipment to reproduce THEIR voice! That must be missappropriation of equipment, right? Guess what, it’s not, because you could have, and still can at any time choose a private sub-channel.

ThinkHarder says:

Common Sence is not to common in the digital world

What consitutes securing an access point to imply to the world that it is a private acess point?

One that only has a nondefault SSID? One that has a custom SSID and MAC filtering, but nothing else? How about nondefault SSID wwith broadcasting off, no DHCP, and MAC filtering.

Wait lets turn on WEP, thats unbreakable!!!! Now is they access point only free for use to those that know how to crack WEP, but not for everyone else that is not as knowledgable?

Stealing a car with the windows down and the keys in it is no different that having to smash the window and hotwire the care in the eyes of the law. The level of effort in securing the resource has little to do with if it is legal or not.

Dave says:

Where do you draw the line?

It seems that the core of this issue is what constitues providing a free service, even unintentionally, versus stealing a service that is not intended for your use. Where is that line? If I stop for a few minutes and watch TV through the window of a store, am I stealing TV viewing time? I think if someone takes NO measures to protect their connection, and it is accessible WITHOUT INTRUDING ON THEIR PROPERTY, then there is no crime. I know someone who has a WiFi connection IN HER OWN APARTMENT, she does not know where it is coming from (most likely a neighbor, but exactly who remains a mystery). If the signal is accessible to her, I don’t think she is stealing by using it. She did not go out and take anything from anyone at all. It is not the same as leaving a door unlocked, because in that case the intruder still has to come onto the proprety, univited, to take something. It is also not the same thing as a wallet in a public place, because the owner inadvertantly left his money there, and the finder is actually taking something away from the owner. Using a business’s connection when they are not there does not interfere with them, they still have the same connection they did before.

Anonymous Coward says:

House analogy

Since people like using the house analogy, isn’t it more like:

There are a row of houses in a street.

a:)Some of them have their front doors closed.

b:)Some of the houses have the front door open and pinned to it are full details of all facilities that you can use.

c:)Some of the houses have the front door open and pinned to it are full details of all facilities that you can use.

By checking the doors of (a) type houses you could be seen as committing a crime.

By walking into (b) type houses you are availing yourselves of the philanthropic nature of the owners who have decided to share their good fortune.

By walking into (c) type houses you are the lowest kind of human being, willing to subjugate your fellow man and steal the shirt off his back.

See – simple.

Anonymous Coward says:

Where do you draw the line?

tell your friend, that her nice neighbor is sniffing all the traffic coming from her machine over his wireless connection. She can expect some credit cards in her name in the very near future. Being in the security field, not all private wi-fi connections are meant to be secure.

It’s just like fishing, a little bit of bait can bring in a whole lot of fish.

Anonymous Coward says:

I've had enough of the lunacy.

Techdirt happens to have a Terms of Service. Part of that, happens to be explicit permission to access the site.

So expect us to believe that you wrote them a letter or something before you ever accessed their site to get permission? I call BS. If it’s true, I expect Mike could confirm this, but I’m betting it isn’t.

I suggest you look into Contract law.

It’s funny how when you were going off on other people you were framing the issue as a matter of criminal law, but now that it involves you, you want to make it just a matter of contract law. Pure hypocrisy. Kind of fits with with the rest of your arguments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Common Sence is not to common in the digital w

Stealing a car with the windows down and the keys in it is no different that having to smash the window and hotwire the care in the eyes of the law. The level of effort in securing the resource has little to do with if it is legal or not.

That is simply not true. There is a huge legal difference between entering a property through an unlocked door and breaking in. If you don’t understand that, I’m surprised you’re not in jail right now.

Mike says:

The real reason cops are cracking down on WiFi

I have spoken with local & county police about this issue.

The police assumption if someone is using a laptop in a public parking lot late at night is that the person is downloading and/or uploading kiddie porn or terrorist instructions. The assumption is that using an open wifi connection will keep you totally anonymous and the police can’t trace you.

Thus, the probable cause is the “furtive use of a computer connection” impllying “an illicit purpose.”

Where the real suprize for the unprotected home network will come in is when the police raid your home and seize your computers because you have been connecting to off-shore kiddie porn sites.

As the number of open WiFi nodes increases, the police will eventually become technically competent and able to access the connection information before approaching the “suspect.” It isn’t that hard to figure out who is connected to where if you have the right software and hardware.

Anonymous Coward says:

Where do you draw the line?

tell your friend, that her nice neighbor is sniffing all the traffic coming from her machine over his wireless connection. She can expect some credit cards in her name in the very near future.

Tell your friend to never submit sensitive information over any unsecured internet connection, wireless or otherwise. Implying to her that she’s safe if she doesn’t use a wireless connection is really dangerous.

Being in the security field, not all private wi-fi connections are meant to be secure.

You must be “in the security field” by being a greeter at WalMart or something. No one competent with computer security would make such a statement. Or maybe you’re just another industry troll.

SoxSweepAgain says:

I had no idea!

I use open wifi all the time, and had no idea there was anything ethically or legally wrong with it.

The shop next door to my house has a connection that my computer picks up so I just use it.

I’ve never thought anything of it. Are they being charged for this? It’s just an open port, isn’t it?

What exactly am I stealing?

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s a strange thing computer technology.

For some reason you’re disassociating a wireless connection from the network it’s connected to.

You wouldn’t plug an ethernet cable into an outlet and automatically assume it’s ok. So, why is using a radio transmitter any different? Why is someone’s lack of security automatically granting you permission? It doesn’t work in any other circumstance why this one?

But I got an IP it must be ok. What kind of logic is that? I got a brainstem and working foot does that mean I can kick you in the ass?

My old cordless phone would connect to my neighbor’s phone. Does that mean I can make calls on his line? I get a dial tone so it must be OK.

Hell, I’ll just cancel my phone service and use his! He’s not getting charged for the call.

SoxSweepAgain says:

I had no idea!

This isn’t the same as a phone call, because they’re not getting cherged for added use of the network.

Unless they’re still paying “by the minute” which is unlikely.

Most of us non-tech people (I linked here from FARK.com) think- assume!- that any Wifi connection their computer picks up is free to be used.

I don;t see a crime here, at all, and hardly anyone else does either.

You guys just know tech stuff… non-tech people don;t see any problem with this, everyone thinks it’s OK… just asked around.

Someone in the NW says:

Cops have no jurisdiction in the matter!

OK, so I have a SIP phone that uses Wi-Fi VOIP across any open Wi-Fi connection. This ZyXel phone looks VERY similar to a cell phone.

How would the cops discriminate between me using a regular cellular phone user and a wireless VOIP phone? Are they going to give me a ticket for using a SIP phone *Like they would even know what it was! 😛 *

I would ask ANY ‘Officer’ if they are a federal agent as they are the ones that lay down the law with wireless telecommunications. If the ‘Officer’ answers “No”, then I would tell them that they have no jurisdiction in the matter.

I have been told by a ‘Officer’ in my home town that I couldn’t use my Amateur radio in a public building. I asked him that exact question, and then told him that since the local agency is not a federal one, he had no say in what I did with my radio and my FCC licensed right to use it. I then told him that if he had a problem with me using the radio further, to contact the FCC in Washington D.C. He just said “Have a nice day” and turned and left me alone. Moron!

Anonymous Coward says:

The real reason cops are cracking down on WiFi

The police assumption if someone is using a laptop in a public parking lot late at night is that the person is downloading and/or uploading kiddie porn or terrorist instructions.

Bad assumption and certainly not reasonable.

The assumption is that using an open wifi connection will keep you totally anonymous and the police can’t trace you.

Authoritarian regimes are all dead set against anonymous speech. Do we want that here?

…the police will eventually become technically competent…

Since when did incompetence become an excuse for wrongful arrest? There are plenty of technically competent people out there. Perhaps police agencies should hire some of them and fewer of the jock types instead.

Anonymous Coward says:

to Post #270

Wow… the name calling…hehe

What I was implying was that just because you find an open Wi-Fi connection, you shouldn’t assume that it was left unsecure because of stupidity or laziness. I have seen cases where people have set up unsecure Wi-Fi connections on which they sniff traffic of those who connect to them. It an easy way to ease drop.

Now do you understand or should I draw you a picture?

Anonymous Coward says:

to Post #270

I have seen cases where people have set up unsecure Wi-Fi connections on which they sniff traffic of those who connect to them.

The same thing can also happen at many points on the internet. Virtually every internet router has the ability to sniff traffic, no WiFi required. You really don’t understand that, do you?

AC says:

This is like fining a person for using a drinking

Imagine a that private citizen, a business, or a public agency, or whatever places a drinking fountain on the sidewalk in front of their property/business/whatever. Then the HoSecPo (thats HOmeland SECurity POlice) stake it out – to catch someone taking an unauthorized drink. To be carted off to the PMITA Cuba gulag. Ridiculous? Pretty much.

If you don’t want people using you WiFi transceiver, try RADIUS, or some equivalent security protocol.

Randy says:

The real reason cops are cracking down on WiFi

“The police assumption if someone is using a laptop in a public parking lot late at night is that the person is downloading and/or uploading kiddie porn or terrorist instructions. The assumption is that using an open wifi connection will keep you totally anonymous and the police can’t trace you.”

It’s your DUTY to educate them, get off your lazy ass and do your duty as a citizen.

When someone uses your wifi you have become the same as an ISP and have no liability, so when the cops find out they should be checking if you have a open wireless router, or you can tell them when they ask.

A district court judge ruled in a recent google case that passing packets automatically like a router does makes you just like a ISP, no liability.

For the brain dead, I have to say this again. When you open up your wireless you are not liable for what ever use people put it to, no liability.

This principal also applies to assuming that everyone has their wireless open for a reason, to let everyone have access. Why not open it? If there’s no liability and you aren’t using all the bandwidth all the time, why not?

Phishin says:

Re:

Mike, I agree that “broadcasting the signal off of your property” and someone “seeing” it shouldn’t be illegal. But using their connection is different. The source of that connection is ON their property. You are essentially “reaching” onto the property to use their equipment. Since everyone likes to use analogies, it’s like this:

Let’s say my house has a window that borders a sidewalk (public property). I leave the window open, you come by and notice it’s open (like a network). It’s my fault it’s open, but hey, my screen won’t stay in and I really wanted to air out the place. I’m stupid that way. You reach in the window, grab my mouse and start using my puter. Even though you are on public property, you are reaching into my house and using my equipment. It is trespassing.

A router is owned by someone, as well as the rent for the service. You are using it without permission, by way of trespassing.

Back to the original case – he was using his computer to reach into the business and use their equipment and rented service without their permission. That is trespassing and stealing. The only way it wouldn’t be if it were advertised that they have purposely set up their equipment and sevice for free public use.

Ok, now I’ll let the wolves rip this apart…

Stupidstupidstupid says:

IDIOTS!

Okay folks, long enough argument with very few people seeing the plain truth. It may be morally right, depending on your views. It may be morally wrong depending on your views. But in either case, this man broke no law involving theft. There are currently no federal laws dealing with use of unencrypted WiFi, and lower levels of government do not have the autority to place such laws. It might be right, it might be wrong, but the man is legally innocent.

Stupidstupidstupid says:

Re:IDIOTS!

There better not be a response to this about some stupid analogy. Like I said, the moral implications are irrelevant. It is technically legal in this situation. Look the laws up yourself if you want. There is no federal, and the lesser are not allowed in this case. REMEMBER: ANALOGIES ARE IRRELEVANT! MORALITY IS IRRELEVANT! IT IS LEGAL!

StupidStupidStupid says:

Yeah....

I’m sorry that you have to resort to insults to feel like you’ve contributed to the topic. I’m trying to put people on the right track, and what I use as my name shouldn’t be important. I don’t like using my real identity online, for various reasons, and that actually is a crime. If you really feel the need to spite me, track me down and get me charged for that. In any case, try to keep the discussion relevant to the topic at hand.

Phishin says:

IDIOTS!

By the way… I think the fact that this guy had to enter a plea, was found guilty and had to pay a fine shows that it is illegal, at least in that locale. That is all mentioned in the linked news article:

“He pleaded guilty Tuesday to the charge and was fined $250 and sentenced to one year of court supervision.”

“Likewise, our residents need to know that it is a crime, punishable by up to a year in jail, to access someone else’s computer, wireless system or Internet connection without that person’s approval.”

This discussion is really just people giving opinions as to if they think it should be legal or not.

dave (user link) says:

wireless for the masses

look, wireless is wireless. if its unsecured, and youre using it, and you get caught, then youre are stupid for staying in one spot for so long.

the morality of it being illegal is left to the person doing it. personally, i dont mind. but i think that if you run a business you should take care to have it secured.

now here’s an idea, how about the people who MAKE the wireless routers and access points build in a nodule that acts as a gatekeeper. it could be any method. just that it doesnt ‘just work’ out of the box.

that would put an end to all this whining.

Michael says:

One point I want to make is that the analogy of “if I left my front door open, it’s not legal to enter my home” is not applicable. Your home is private property. As in physical “is your body on my soil” property. As in “has hundreds of years of historical legal precident” property. There are long standing laws on tresspass for physical property, and it is completely obvious to anyone alive today that tresspass is illegal (within the bound of the law’s use of “obvious” and “anyone”; special cases are just that… special cases). Using a signal broadcast into public airspace is not the same as physical trespassing onto someone’s private property, and historical precident of unencrypted signals in public airspace actually would tend to swing to the side of legal (i.e. radio).

Now is it actually legal to use unsecured wireless? That’s the debate at hand. While I have opinions, this thread has included most of my reasoning already. I’m simply refuting this particular analogy.

MoonPie says:

How about some personal responsibility

Most people that I know of don’t secure their connection because they want to share it with friends. Open network means “go ahead and use it”.

You guys have no argument and sound like complete morons who think it’s stealing. if someone doesn’t secure their network then they are offering it up for use, plain and simple.

Being ignorant of something isn’t an excuse. Just like driving laws. Secure your damn network, or if you don’t know how then pay the neighborhood kid $15 to do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

by Anonymous Patriot on Mar 23rd, 2006 @ 2

Also, I think if people would read through the previously posted responses they would be less inclined to share the my-front-door-is-open-but-you-can’t-come-in analogy for the 37th time.

LISTEN!…then speak.

Yes but it is a very long topic. My mouse wheel is getting tired. 🙂

petecarlson says:

Lame

Yes, but he was invited in. The WAP was sending open invitations to join the network. He replied to the invitation and the WAP responded by issuing him an IP address and giving him access.

WAP “Open WiFi here… Open WiFi here… WiFi here…”

Client “Can I join your network?”

WAP “Sure, come on in”

Client “Does anyone have an IP address I can use?”

WAP “You can use x.x.x.x24 for 2400 seconds”

Client “Ok, I will use x.x.x.x24 for 2400 seconds”

WAP “OK”



COP “Your Stealing, No one told you you could use that connection”

Client “WTF”

Jake says:

Lame

> Yes, but he was invited in. The WAP was sending open invitations to join the network. He replied to the invitation and the WAP responded by issuing him an IP address and giving him access.

> WAP “Open WiFi here… Open WiFi here… WiFi here…”

> Client “Can I join your network?”

> WAP “Sure, come on in”

> Client “Does anyone have an IP address I can use?”

> WAP “You can use x.x.x.x24 for 2400 seconds”

> Client “Ok, I will use x.x.x.x24 for 2400 seconds”

> WAP “OK”

Yes, it’s called DHCP and it’s part of the protocol that gives you permission, a gateway address and a lease of time.

I don’t know how much more permission you would need. Even Pantera Bread’s or Starbucks sign on screen is the same principal, except DHCP is automated.

No one is doing “unauthorized access” here, the damn thing is broadcasting that it’s there, it’s open and then gives you permission to use it. No INFORMED jury would convict this guy, and he should appeal the whole thing. I think he didn’t have a lawyer, but if you know some basics about how things work you really don’t need a lawyer in this case.

So you people out there that don’t know jack about how this technology works should quit watching TV and learn how things work.

I don’t understand how anyone can go through life without knowing how a car engine works, or even how a fridge works. It just shows you how low your IQ is without even having to take a test.

JoeT says:

For everyone’s information, there is NO Federal Law that prohibits the mere access of a computer network without authorization. The oft-quoted Computer Fraud and Abuse Act requires there to be intent to defraud or other motiviation to be applicable.

However, most STATE law prohibits unauthorized access to a computer system or network.

Here’s a page where you can look up your State’s statue:

http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/CIP/hacklaw.htm

And here’s a copy of the relevent part of Florida’s law (where I live – unrelevant portions removed):

815.06 Offenses against computer users.–

(1) Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization:

(a) Accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network;

commits an offense against computer users.

(2)(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c), whoever violates subsection (1) commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

…So, in other words, accessing a computer network (which in FL includes a wireless network) without permission is a felony.

Incidentally, there’s no reason why two schools of thought cannot coexist here. You can choose to offer your WiFi or not, and accessing it is either prohibited or permitted. The point that everyone seems to miss is that private property is private unless you are overtly granted permission to enter upon/use it. So, legally, WiFi networks are private unless you have overt permission to use it. The question that will be pondered in court is – did you believe you had permission, and why? If you don’t have a good faith answer to that question that the court believes… Then you’ll pay the price. I highly doubt that “he didn’t secure it” will get you very far.

JoeT says:

Lame

Beacon frames are not PERMISSION, they are NOTIFICATION. Nothing inherent in them (or in probe requests/responses) conveys the permission of the owner to use the network (which, in case you forget, also comprises the cat5 and any other infrastructure behind the AP, such as an internal switch/router/what have you). And, legally, it’s not the permission of the AP you require, but that of the owner. If the owner of that equioment did not overtly grant you permission to access his network (of which the AP is merely a part), then you have no permission to do so.

Again, try telling the judge that the AP granted you permission and see how far you get. Justify it to yourself all you want, the law is NOT on your side, and, Mike’s commentary nothwithstanding, it is not about loss in either economic or bandwidth terms, but about basic property rights – your right to determine who may and may not use your private property.

Why is this so difficult to understand?

JoeT says:

Re:

The question is not whether or not it is illegal to use unsecured WIRELESS. The question is whether or not it is illegal to use someone’s network without authorization, and there are both State laws and court precedents that state unequivocally that is it NOT. The manner of access is simply not relevant. Wireless just makes it easier to do. Legallly speaking, this has nothing to do with stealing or tresspass, but everythng to do with the specific crime of accessing a computer network without permission. From a legal perspective, the crime is identical no matter if you sit in front of a house and use the Wifi or break into the house and plug in to the LAN. (Of course, in the latter, you’d have tresspass and possibly B&E charges too, but that’s another story).

Now, this doesn’t take into account that having unsecured wifi is a pretty stupid thing to do – which it is, since not everyone will get caught and opens up the possibility that you’ll get blamed for what someone accessing your wifi might do. However, imprudence does not equal permission in the eyes of the law, as those arrested and charged are now finding out.