Australian Police Start Wardriving; Telling You To Lock Up Your WiFi

from the but-what-if-I-want-it-open? dept

I honestly had to double check the date on this story, because it sounds like something we heard seven years ago about the US Secret Service doing wardriving and alerting open WiFi router owners that their WiFi was open. That was back when there were all sorts of stories about how “evil” it was to have open WiFi, which seems to have finally (thankfully) gone away for the most part. However, Broadband Reports points us to the news that police in Australia are going to start “wardriving” and seeking open WiFi networks in order to knock on your door and tell you to lock them down. They don’t seem to note that having an open WiFi network is legal if you want it to be open. Perhaps it’s a nice thing to do to alert people who might not know, but it seems like police resources could be spent in a more useful manner.

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Comments on “Australian Police Start Wardriving; Telling You To Lock Up Your WiFi”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: I think it's a good idea

“Which crimes are going to be prevented by doing this, exactly?”

Uh, the crime of connecting and utilizing a wireless network that isn’t yours, idiot.

What’s that? Oh, that’s NOT illegal? You mean we don’t all have to put locks on everything to keep people out of everything we own? You mean my neighbors AREN’T my enemy? Are you sure?

Retraction: you were right.

OC says:

Re: Re: Re: I think it's a good idea

Since it’s indirectly a comment to my entry (#2) I’ll reply to it. Nowhere in the article does it mention that they are doing it to prevent people to use an open WiFi connection for surfing, which is and should be legal.

There was however a mention that they would like to help people get secure WiFi’s (which is NOT the same as closed). Unsecure WiFi’s are used to break into the computers which is a crime. The police is there to prevent and solve crime. See the connection (not WiFi) now?

Maybe it’s hard to read articles in a helmet that big.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I think it's a good idea

Well first of all, spam is usually sent using botnets, not open wireless networks. Shutting down open connections would do exactly nothing to stop this.

As for other illegal uses of the internet connection, having open networks does make it a little harder to investigate but it’s hardly the major enabling factor. There’s plenty of places where you can get easy wireless access without much risk of being caught (e.g. bars with wifi – hide in a corner and nobody notices what’s on your screen).

Plus, forcing the shutting down of open networks may simply provide a false sense of security. Anyone clueless enough to not know that their wireless is open would probably use the simplest method to “secure” their connection – i.e. WEP. Anyone intent on using a connection for illegal activity would still be able to access such connection with relative ease, and the homeowner who currently uses the “SODDI defence” legitimately has a much more difficult time of proving his innocence.

Fushta says:

Australia = (USA - 7 years)*1.01

“I honestly had to double check the date on this story, because it sounds like something we heard seven years ago about the US Secret Service doing wardriving and alerting open WiFi router owners that their WiFi was open.”

It’s no surprise, really. Countries like Australia are generally seven years behind the USA in most everything: social mores, technology, brains, living conditions, etc. It’s par-for-the-course that the authority figures down under are just now coming up with this invasion of privacy. They probably think that it was their brilliant idea (and will copyright it).

You’d think with the speed at which information can travel, it would arrive in Australia in less than seven years. Can someone check the under-ocean cables? Information moving at the speed of stupidity.

TW Burger (profile) says:

I am Australian - Well excuse me

There’s a joke about Australian intellect: “When a New Zealander emigrates to Australia the IQ of both countries goes up.”

A policy of having any WiFi equipment sold in Australia having a default random security lock would be a better and cheaper partial solution. Also, a cheap public education campaign would be effective. This is a complete waste of police resources.

I have occasionally scanned my neighborhood for open WiFi. I have not seen any open networks in 2 years.

discojohnson says:

Re: I am Australian - Well excuse me

I scan mine as well, and almost all are WEP “encrypted” as a default on the major DSL provider here. I just leave mine open and use MAC filtering as some of my devices are WEP, WPA and a few WPA2.. Sure it’s not perfect, but at least I turned off SSID broadcasting, which would seem to be one of the simplest things to do to keep people moving along for an easy target. If folks want to get on your network, they will.

Anonymous Coward says:

I actually think this is a good idea as long as they are just informing the public of the dangers and not forcing people to lock up their wireless.

look at it this way: you devote two cops in a single car to patrolling for each city. one cop drives, the other has a laptop. Then they patrol neighborhoods (rather than setting up speed traps) and they make the cops a visible presence to cut down on other types of crime as well.

Properly done it does just means that the partner who isn’t driving is doing something educational and useful for the public while they are making themselves a very visible presence to deter real crime and patrolling so that they will be on the move and hopefully in the area for when a crime is reported.

I wish the cops around here would do some actual patrolling instead of just setting speed traps, you never see a cop around here unless they are ticketing someone or doing a drug bust (during which ALL the cops try to get in on it)

Anonymous Coward says:

Just in time for.....

How To Behave: The New Rules for Highly Evolved Humans

Leave Your Wi-Fi Open

Everyone with a Wi-Fi network has had to wrestle with this conundrum: Should you leave your network open for anyone to use, or is that asking for trouble?

Let’s start by dispensing with the legalities. Unless your ISP is one of a handful that officially don’t care, knowingly letting a neighbor share your connection likely violates your terms of service. […]

Even so, you should share your Wi-Fi. [……….]

fishbane (profile) says:

Those saying that it is good public education, etc. should answer why it is cops doing this. Should trash collectors educate the public on wasting water?

It is silly for cops to do this. Granting, arguendo, that it is a good idea (not something I believe, but-) spending scarce resources on using public servants that many are already intimidated by to “educate” people on a topic that cops are likely uneducated in themselves is wasteful.

It is a misuse of public authority.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I already explained why it makes sense for cops to do this. it gets them to patrol the neighborhoods for other activities if they weren’t already.

If they were patrolling the neighborhoods like they should (would be the first city I’ve hear that is like that) then it doesn’t take any extra resources because the partner in the car can do it ( really they just leave the program running while they patrol around)

so the actual benefit of doing these for education is minimal but it makes cops patrol neighborhoods, something few cops do, and doesn’t actually put a significant burden on the force. It isn’t like a cop won’t answer a robbery or other crime because he is busy wardriving a neighborhood. ideally it means that the cops will me able to respond to a scene faster.

Ilfar says:

Open WiFi

I don’t care if they’re just looking for the nearest McDonalds for lunch, I’d rather have police driving through my area than not driving through. Police presence is a deterrent.

I’ll be quite happy if they note that someone’s been warned. Then if that person gets hit with something they can’t use the excuse of an open WiFi and it wasn’t them (which I think is a stupid excuse to start with).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Open WiFi

I don’t care if they’re just looking for the nearest McDonalds for lunch, I’d rather have police driving through my area than not driving through. Police presence is a deterrent.

So how is wardriving by the cops required for that? Wouldn’t it be better if they were going house to house, rattling the doorknobs and trying the windows to make sure they’re locked instead? Residential burglary is a much larger problem, after all.

Coises (profile) says:

Good neighbors or clueless suckers?

According to the article linked in the post:

He [Detective Superintendent Brian Hay] said it was illegal to use someone else’s network bandwidth without their permission, even if that bandwidth was not used to commit another crime such as identity theft.

I have no idea whether this is established in Australian law, or whether leaving a network unsecured is free from the implication that access is permitted. If so, then it would seem reasonable to alert citizens to open networks, since anyone using them would be committing a crime unless they had previously obtained permission of the owner of the wireless equipment (in which case they could easily obtain a network key as well).

It troubles me that I can’t recommend leaving Wi-Fi open, as a “good neighbor” policy — indeed, I’ve availed myself of open Wi-Fi when my own equipment was experiencing a glitch and I needed to access the Internet to learn what to do about it! Still, as basic CYA, I find myself compelled to suggest to anyone whom I advise regarding Wi-Fi to lock it down. Even for those not sharing files on the local network, I fear some nefarious use of their connection might be traced back to them. Beating it in court is rarely the point… practical damage is done long before a verdict of any sort is rendered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good neighbors or clueless suckers?

well that is why if you want that, you can name the SSID as something like “free Wifi be good” or other ways of showing that you mean to leave it open for neighbors. that is direct consent to use the WAP. it also shows that you have a history of just letting people use your wireless, which helps a SODDI defense

Anonymous Coward says:

The Real Reason

The real reason they are doing this is to intimidate people.

Generally speaking, most cops hate freedom (except their own, of course). This especially includes the freedom to communicate freely and anonymously. Now open WiFi facilitates such communication, so of course the cops aren’t going to like it. So while open WiFi may not be illegal (yet), that doesn’t stop them from showing up with guns at people’s doors, getting in their face and “warning” them about it. This lets people know that the cops have made note of their activities and aren’t at all happy about it without the cops having to explicitly say so. Most people, even if their WiFi was open on purpose, probably don’t want trouble with the police and will be intimidated enough to shut it down. Purpose served.

Techn1x says:


…The police aren’t forcing people here in AUS to lock their WiFi. They are going on wardriving missions to alert citizens of the dangers of unsecured WiFi. Nothing is wrong with that, except people like me are less likely to have as much fun wardriving anymore. The article is completely wrong!

martin says:

letter to police commissioner of police, sydney, Australia

The Commissioner of Police
South Australia Police department,

Respected Sir,
With the due respect, we are here to share some comments on the recent attack at sydney, Australia to Indian students.
And we totally support for the action which had been taken by Sydney, Australian police department.
These Indian deserve the attack and they will suffer more in future.

let me introduce ourself. We are from India. We are Indian.
You might be wondering, even we Indian and why we are not supporting for Indian students?.
Well India has 28 different states and each have different culture and their own languages.
And we are from Northeastern states of India;
in which Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh,
Assam, ladak and Sikkim. In total almost 9 states are there.

The interesting fact is that all these northeastern sates, their race have came from chinese and some have came from thailand
descend. So we look different from those Indian from India. We are minority as compare to other sates.
We are from India but we don’t consider ourself as Indian because; they discriminate us in our race and there are no equal opportunities.
Our religion are Christian as majority and Bhuddhism are also there.
And we have our own language and we don’t speak Hindi.
We have totally different mentality from them. And we are!

India is governed or controlled by those Indian from Northern sates; which are Himachal Pradesh,
Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
These states are Hindu majority and they speak Hindi. and also all south states combined together.

So Why we are saying these things? because we want to explain the general facts that what are really happening
in the India.
As you know Delhi is capital city of India. And students from whole different part of Indian state come to
study in college and universities in Delhi.

We students from Northeastern part of India and foreigners from USA, Australia, Europe and Canada
who come to study, since we are minority, we face discrimination, killing, tortune and rape cases most of the time.
These things are common in India. Crime and discrimination is common in India.
Such cruel are these people, They are really a bloody Indian.
Show no mercy on these Indian who commit crime, we urge you!
Australia police have total support from us.
Indian are the worst people in this world.
They have no discipline and whereever they go, they make the places in garbage.

So from Northeastern sates of India, we the people from India totally support for the action
that has been taken to Indian student at sydney in Australia.

Don’t let them standup, bend them down.
This is karma. Indian students are paying the price where
they are doing to us and foreigners in India.
They should suffer and suffer more and more, we people of northeastern states of India urge that to you!
Whatever Australian people and police are doing, are right.
Kick them out!

Thanking you.
yours sincerely
representative from northeastern sate of India.

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