Is Using WiFi Illegal?

from the fine-lines dept

A few weeks ago we wrote a post wondering if it's illegal to get hacked. Tower Records was fined for having their customer records hacked, with the rationale that they didn't do enough to protect them. While it makes sense to fine a company that has revealed customer records, this becomes a slippery slope. What if you put in place all sorts of protective measures, and hackers still get through? Or, take the argument in a different direction - what if you think it's fine to leave your system open? With that in mind, Mark Rasch takes a look to see whether or not using WiFi may constitute a felony. It seems like a fine line, but if someone felt it was necessary, you could get in an awful lot of legal trouble for using WiFi. On the end user side of things, connecting to an open WiFi access point may run afoul of laws that make it illegal to "knowingly access a computer used in interstate or foreign communication 'without authorization.'" If the response is that the system was open, and thus the authorization was implied, then does that apply to situations where a customer database is left open as well? What if the security is so flimsy as to basically be non-existent. Where's the line? On the other side of things, Rasch points out that just by setting up a WiFi network, you could be in trouble as well. Unless you carefully make sure that no one outside of your home can access the network, you may run into problems with many state laws that make it illegal to "share" an internet connection, the same way it's illegal to share a cable or satellite TV connection.

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