Austin Police Planned... Then Postponed Wardriving Plans In An Attempt To Shutdown Open WiFi

from the um,-but-it's-legal dept

Jonathan Rumion alerted us to a plan by the Austin, Texas police department to conduct a massive war drive around the city, looking for open WiFi networks, with the plan to try to find the owners, and tell them to lock up their WiFi networks. We've heard of similar campaigns in the past. Rumion was reasonably concerned about this effort -- and whether it was because of him asking questions, or other reasons, it looks like the Austin police have postponed this effort for the time being.

Either way, it raises lots of questions. Having an open WiFi network is not against the law, so should the police really be going around telling people to lock up their WiFi? It's also not at all clear how they're figuring out who actually owns the open WiFi networks. Rumion was also concerned about what the police might do with the data they collect, though I don't think that should be an issue -- that data is public. Still, it does seem like a questionable effort against something that remains perfectly legal.

Filed Under: austin, open wifi, wifi, wireless


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  1. icon
    Austin (profile), 26 Sep 2011 @ 7:26am

    Re: It's not illegal, but some people don't understand their exposure

    "Some people leave their wifi open, which is fine, but we've already seen that the behavior can be problematic."

    Then it's an education problem. The solution here isn't to police ALL the users, it's to EDUCATE the users who don't know what they're doing. You wanna solve this problem? Require everyone who buys a router at Best Buy to watch a 2 minute tutorial on WEP and/or WPA. Hell, just refer them to one of the countless YouTube videos of someone cracking WEP with Backtrack in under 2 minutes. Problem solved.

    Seriously, this is the problem with America. People here think Educations ends at Graduation. Don't get me wrong, I personally believe the US Educational system is badly broken and should be scrapped entirely and recreated from scratch, but that's not the point. The problem here in America is that, at some age, everyone stops learning. People hit 40 or 50 or 60 and they start thinking "I'm old, I'm busy, and some younger person can figure this stuff out for me for $6/hour, so I give up." This mindset has cost more trillions of dollars and more millions of lives than any war in the last 3 centuries. Education should be like healthcare - cradle to grave. The thought that you hit some magical point where you've "paid your dues" and no longer need to learn anything is as insane as thinking "well, I'm 55, so even though everyone else is going to get a Flu Shot, I've had 50 of those things and I'm alright." It's insane.

    So rather than passing a law that punishes everyone (or worse, using the police to enforce a misguided viewpoint with zero law to back it up) - including those who actually properly secure a network without WEP/WPA (it can be done!) let's focus on educating those who simply don't have the KNOWLEDGE to do it.

    Also, in case someone is wondering, here's my setup:

    DSL Modem > Router A > Router B

    Router A has no encryption but is configured to allow only 1 wifi connection at a time. My Nintendo DS uses this connection 24/7 unless a friend needs it. Thus, the single slot is always occupied, preventing use by the public. Router B uses WPA, a MAC Filter, a 9 connection limit (the exact number of devices I connect to it), static DHCP, expires leases every 30 minutes, and sends me an email if all previous devices don't reconnect within 5 minutes.

    Now, if you don't understand ANY of what I just said, GO EDUCATE YOURSELF. THIS IS INTERNET 101 PEOPLE!

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