Wireless Piggybacking Is Still Not A Problem

from the victimless-crime dept

For years, we've been pointing out that there's nothing unethical about borrowing an open wireless connection. Unfortunately, the stories on this subject just keep getting more hysterical. The latest example is a story from the UK that dubs the offense "wi-fi tapping" and reports that more than half of computer users have engaged in the practice, which it claims is illegal in the UK. Now, you might think that the fact that a majority of otherwise law-abiding Brits have engaged in piggybacking would be a reason to re-consider the law against it, but instead the story takes the opposite tack, sternly lecturing readers about the need to abstain from borrowing Internet access. Unfortunately, they never get around to explaining what's supposed to be wrong with it. They point out that people sometimes do illegal things with a borrowed wi-fi connection, but that's like saying you should never allow anyone to borrow your car because they might run someone over with it. And they insist that it's not a victimless crime because "A crime is perpetrated against the person who pays for the internet connection." But that's just circular logic. It's quite possible the owner of the network left it open on purpose, and in any event, if the piggybacker is just checking his email or engaging in light web surfing, the bandwidth being consumed is trivial. The "victim" is unlikely to even notice, and he certainly doesn't suffer any serious harm. Of course, there might be legitimate reasons, either security- or bandwidth-related, why someone would want to lock down his or her network. It's certainly worthwhile to educate users about the pros and cons of leaving your network open, and to provide them with directions for locking down their network if they wish to do so. But the police have much more important things to do than harassing people whose only crime is a compulsive need to check their email.

Filed Under: freeloaders, open access, uk, wifi


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  1. identicon
    tek'a, 15 Nov 2007 @ 4:07pm

    Re: More flawed thinking, I see...

    Will, hun.. I hope your being dense on purpose, cause anyone with such natural talent should have expired long ago, maybe from standing around staring at the sun.

    Your wi-fi coverage area is not your home, its not your property. these "free apples" are Not on your porch, they are in the middle of the street and they do indeed have a "free" sign on them.

    If you set up a home network with wi-fi and dont even bother to "put a lid on the barrel", much less get it out of the street, you are giving them away, free, gratis, and for nothing.

    This, of course, ignores many of the monitoring, limiting and restricting options built into your system that You are not taking advantage of or even looking into.

    The continuation of the free apple theme would be putting up a sign "please take only one" all the way through a nice little fruitstand, "apples $1 each".

    If you cant be bothered to make what is Literally the minimum effort, you will receive the minimum protection, IE, none.

    Of course, if you secure your wifi and someone rolls up, breaks in through the front window of your home, cracks your encryption and eats all your apples, despite all your strong locks, we are indeed in a different situation, not to mention horribly mixed and overextended metaphors.

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