When In Singapore Make Sure To Turn Off WiFi Network Autodiscovery

from the otherwise,-jailtime-it-is dept

For many years, we've put up posts questioning whether or not using unsecured WiFi was a crime or if it even should be a crime. It appears that officials in Singapore decided that it absolutely is a crime and John writes in to point out that a teenager now faces three years in jail for using his neighbor's WiFi. There aren't too many details here, and perhaps there's more to this story. However, from the summary, it sounds like this kid used his neighbor's open WiFi network. There's nothing saying that he got past any security or anything like that -- just that he had "unauthorized access." As many of you probably know, most computers these days have WiFi network auto-discovery, meaning that if you're walking around with an ordinary laptop in Singapore, you could accidentally open yourself up to the potential of 3 years in jail just by waking it up in the wrong spot. The other oddity here is that the article claims the complaint was filed by the neighbor, though it's unclear how he knew that his WiFi was being used by the teen, or how anyone can prove that it actually was the teen. Perhaps there really is more to the story, and perhaps the neighbor did properly lock up his WiFi -- but if it really was open, wouldn't locking it up be a more reasonable response than tossing your teenaged neighbor in jail for three years?

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  1. identicon
    IANAL, 14 Nov 2006 @ 8:52am

    I am not a lawyer. I'm a information security expert and I lived in Singapore.

    The law used here is the Computer Misuse Act. Unlike what has been previously mentioned in other comments about analogies in property law, the Act states clearly that unauthorized access to computer systems or networks (wired or wireless), whether they were secured in the first place, is illegal. The law is somewhat sweeping, as most Singapore laws are, and discretion is left to the judge. A point to note is that the kid hasn't been sentenced yet. What is stated is the maximum possible charges. His trial is scheduled for tomorrow.

    I must say that's is not a trivial task to locate the kid (or anyone using a home wireless network without authorization). The low-tech way would be to find the (easily faked) MAC address logged by the AP and then determine which computer it is either by going through manufacturer records (not easy), or knocking on every door within range and checking all equipment (also not easy). The kid must have been pretty blatant about it ("Nya, nya, thanks for the bandwidth sucker!").The victim was probably not tech savvy enough to secure his network, so without prompting, wouldn't have figured out the reason for the performance drop in his DotA game or why his BitTorrent rates were reduced.

    ISPs in Singapore generally don't charge per byte transfered. With widespread broadband, the consumer rates are monthly and dependent on the desired speed. There's also a trend to give out wireless routers with the service subscription, which is to say the least, annoying in high-rise, high-density Singapore. I have huge problems with interference when I try to get online during my visits back there.

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