Stealing WiFi is, well, stealing

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Ned

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http://rrstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060323/NEWS0107/103230036/1011 is an article about a conviction for using an unsecured WiFi connection without permission.? The precedent has been set.

?our residents need to know that it is a crime, punishable by up to a year in jail, to access someone else?s computer, wireless system or Internet connection without that person?s approval.?
 

JGarrick

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I recently read an article that suggested the idea of a law like this is just wrongheaded. The author proposed that if someone leaves their wireless network unsecured, what business is it of the government to make it a crime to access it. In this case, the only thing "stolen" was some bandwidth. The article gave no indication that the person charged attempted to access anything within the non-profit's private network, but was just using it for access to the public internet. While it might be a violation of the terms of service with the ISP to allow unauthorized access to the network, that's entirely a private matter between the ISP and their customer, not a criminal one.

Here in Minnesota, land owners have an obligation to post "No Trespassing" signs if they don't want hunters to use their land. I think of securing your network as the equivalent of posting a "No Trespassing" sign.

I don't know if having no penalty for unauthorized wireless networking is as great as this guy was claiming, but a year in jail for using a wireless hotspot seems a little excessive.
 

Ron

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Using somebody elses system woithout their permission is just flat STEALING just as much as connecting to their phoine line or TV cable.  Personally I think the guy got off with to light a sentence.

 

Chet18013

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JGarrick said:
I recently read an article that suggested the idea of a law like this is just wrongheaded. The author proposed that if someone leaves their wireless network unsecured, what business is it of the government to make it a crime to access it. In this case, the only thing "stolen" was some bandwidth. The article gave no indication that the person charged attempted to access anything within the non-profit's private network, but was just using it for access to the public internet. While it might be a violation of the terms of service with the ISP to allow unauthorized access to the network, that's entirely a private matter between the ISP and their customer, not a criminal one.

Here in Minnesota, land owners have an obligation to post "No Trespassing" signs if they don't want hunters to use their land. I think of securing your network as the equivalent of posting a "No Trespassing" sign.

I don't know if having no penalty for unauthorized wireless networking is as great as this guy was claiming, but a year in jail for using a wireless hotspot seems a little excessive.


I sure agree with you here! If a person doesn't have the sence to secure their WiFi with a password, then it should be assumed that it is open for use. It's no defferent that parking outside the fence and watching a drive in move with out paying. BTW, are there any driveiin movies that are still in operation? There are to many "HOT SPOTS" in existance that are left open on purpose for public use.

The same requirement for posting your land also exisits here in PA.

Chet18013
 

John From Detroit

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JGarrick said:
I recently read an article that suggested the idea of a law like this is just wrongheaded. The author proposed that if someone leaves their wireless network unsecured, what business is it of the government to make it a crime to access it. In this case, the only thing "stolen" was some bandwidth.

Well,  many answers.. #1, if you leave the door of your house unlocked... Is it a crime to enter the house and steal your television?  I mean, you have an obligation to lock your door so was a crime comitted?

When a couple of Aggressive Hostiles entered the unlocked garage at my other house and walked off with two power generators and a snow blower, among other things, did they comitt a crime, I mean the lock was broken after all

Stealing is, well, stealing, locks not withstanding.

Now, entering someones land for legitimate purposes such as hunting Deer, (ulness he raises deer) is not stealing, in fact you may well be doing him a favor.  Thus the No-Tresspassing requirment

But stealing is stealing and some folks stil pay for bandwidth,  And who knows what else someone might snarf up while they are connected to your LAN.. Perhaps your credit card number,, Or the lovely "Glamor Shot" of your spouse. 

No, stealing bandwidth is stealing, pure and simple.

In fact, in many states it is illegal to approach a computer without authorization.. This means any attempt to access my computer, either locally or remotely, or my network (which is a computer after all) requires you have my permission.

There are exceptions.. For example if there is a big sign (or even a little one) that says "FREE WI-FI"  Then I tend to believe it.  This is an invitation to anyone and everyone to log on, Permission has been granted.

But my house.. NO WAY. you must ask.. and of course in my case you must have the password
 

Ned

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Using an unsecured wireless network is ok, but hacking a secured one is not?  What's the difference other than a bit of techonology?

The best way to handle an unsecured network when found is to discover the owner, if possible, and inform him.  Then if he doesn't know how to secure his access point, show him.
 

Bob Zambenini

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Ned said:
Using an unsecured wireless network is ok, but hacking a secured one is not?  What's the difference other than a bit of techonology?

The best way to handle an unsecured network when found is to discover the owner, if possible, and inform him.  Then if he doesn't know how to secure his access point, show him.

You should have been at FMCA at Pomona. I turned on my Net Stumbler and there were many, many unsecured signals. 'Default' was the most popular!

Speaking of open things. Our local police blotter is frequently a hoot. This week someone called 9-1-1 to report a car with windows down. As the car was in front of a bar, the police quickly found the owner and he said he always left his windows down (Never rains in Southern California). Guess that personal choice. Some open networks are  by choice and some by stupidity.

Bob
 

Tom

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Just as we were about to leave Pomona, out of curiosity I clicked on 'View available networks' and saw a bunch of open networks. 'Linksys' and 'Belkin' were popular names  ;D
 

Karl

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There are exceptions.. For example if there is a big sign (or even a little one) that says "FREE WI-FI"  Then I tend to believe it.  This is an invitation to anyone and everyone to log on, Permission has been granted.

If you drive past a Holiday Inn which has a sign that says "Free Continental Breakfast", does that mean you can just walk in the door and help yourself? Of course not. It is implied that you are a paying guest of the motel. Does not having a locked cover on your swimming pool mean that anyone can 'drop in' for a dip? Of course not.

Entering someone's land for a purpose other than visiting the owners, without their permission is trespass. In law, trespass can be: 1) the criminal act of going into somebody else's land or property without permission; 2) it is also a civil law tort that may be a valid cause of action to seek judicial relief and possibly damages through a lawsuit.

Just because a wi-fi is not secured doesn't mean it's up for grabs. Someone is paying for it, and if you don't have permission - either expressed or implied, than you have no business using it.

Oh, and just to so nobody misunderstands, he did not get a year in jail; he got a year under "Court Supervision", which usually means that if he's caught doing it again within a year, the judge may then actually send him to jail.
 

Wendy

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John In Detroit said:
And who knows what else someone might snarf up while they are connected to your LAN.. Perhaps your credit card number,, Or the lovely "Glamor Shot" of your spouse.?

I agree that accessing and taking things off your system is stealing and is a reason to have your system secured. But I don't see that as the same as using an unsecured WiFi. You TOOK something off the system, you didn't just USE the system.

And I don't see how you can compare it to entering my unlocked house and taking my TV (which you could do because we rarely lock the door). If you take my TV, I've lost something and will have to pay $$ to replace it. If you get online using my WiFi (which you can't because it's secure) then what have I lost? What am I missing? What do I have to replace?

Then there's the old HBO argument from the 80s when satellite systems could pick up HBO for free. Those of us who intercepted HBOs signal without paying for it argued that their signal was entering our space without our permission so we were free to use it. Of course, we eventually lost that "free" signal when the pay channels learned how to encrypt their signals.

And finally, there's the "dummy" argument. If I turn on my laptop and it shows me an unsecured system, how do I know it's not free to use? I'm in a hotel that offers free WiFi, I turn on the laptop and grab the strongest signal I see. But maybe it wasn't the hotel's, maybe it was a hotel guest next door. How did I know?

And the biggest thing for me isn't whether using or not using an open system is a matter of stealing but the fact that if you're using someone else's system, there's a good chance that they can dip into your computer. Of course, if you were using their system without their permission, are they stealing if they go into your computer and take your credit card, user name, password, etc. info??

 

Ned

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Someone can enter your unlocked and not steal anything and they are still trespassing, which is a crime.

Seeing SSIDs like linksys, belkin, etc. is a good clue that the owner hasn't a clue that his network is unsecured so the safe assumption to make is that he doesn't want to share.  If I saw an SSID of FreeInternet-helpyourself then that tells me the owner is willing to take the risks of sharing.

This is just common sense, to me, at least.  I don't enter unlocked houses uninvited, I don't borrow unlocked cars without consent, and I don't use unsecured internet connections without permission.  People can rationalize this all they want, but to me, and now to the law in at least one county, it's illegal.
 

Wendy

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I agree that if someone enters my unlocked house, they are trespassing. But if they sit down and watch TV for a couple of hours and then leave, have they stolen anything (although I'd certainly want them tossed in jail for trespass). I can buy the argument that using unsecured internet access is a violation of a trespass law more than I can see it as "stealing."

I readily admit that I am an internet dummy. Now I'll look when I turn on the laptop and if I see linksys or belkin I'll assume that those are systems the owner doesn't want to share. But what if I see joessite or wannadance or hiltonguy? Do you assume that you shouldn't use those or do you assume that the owners know they're sharing and don't care? I think I'm probably pretty typical of the average dummy who just turns on the computer, looks for the strongest signal, and signs on, especially if you're in a hotel or a campground that advertises free WiFi.

 

Ned

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Ok, one simple example that may make it clearer why it can be construed as stealing.  You have a satellite internet access plan for which you pay.  I sit outside your house and access the internet via that connection and your unsecured WiFi access point.  I proceed to download some very large files: graphics, a Linux ISO, etc. that gets you FAPped.  Your highspeed service is now reduced to no better than dialup speeds, probably for hours.  Would you feel that you had been robbed?  You're no longer getting the service you're paying for because I used it.

If a hotel (where you're a guest) or a campground (where you're a guest) advertises free internet, they will tell you at checkin how to access it.  It may be as simple as telling you the SSID.  As long as you're a guest of that business, you're entitled to use the service.  If you're in the parking lot and not a guest, you're not.
 

Wendy

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Ok, now I'm with you. If my system is suffering because you're sitting out on the street slowing down my access, then what you're doing is wrong. However, I'm stupid for not having my system secure and allowing you free access....if you sit outside and suck off my system,  it's my own fault for not locking my system.  I'd probably say the same thing if someone entered my house and stole something (if they could find anything of value)....they're wrong for entering but I don't lock my house so it's my own fault.
 

Ned

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Don't confuse stuipdity with ignorance.  If I know and don't care, that's stupid, but if I don't know, that's ignorance.  I prefer to educate the ignorant and if they still don't care, then they're stupid.  This applies in many contexts, not just this one, of course.

In any event, would you want to be the test case in any jurisdiction?  To turn the argument around, I think it's stupid to use an open connection without permission as I might just end up as that test case.

We haven't explored the ethics either.
 

Tom

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Being FAP'd is a good example and one that most folks, even DW users, don't know about (or aren't conscious of) until their provider throttles them back to a crawl.
 

John From Detroit

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==As long as you're a guest of that business, you're entitled to use the service.  If you're in the parking lot and not a guest, you're not==

As I said, if there is a big sign that says "Free Wi-Fi" and does not say "For our guests"  I believe it.

This does not mean I'm going to use it,  It just means I believe it.

Now places like Panara Bread... I'll use the free Wi-Fi while I eat my sandwich


Oh, and for the person who countered with the example of someone entering her house w/o breaking, watching some TV, and leaving, without disturbing anything else

They stole the electricity to run the televison.... Or the power to run your modem in the internet example
 

Ned

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And if the sign said "Free Continental Breakfast", it's implied that's for the guests.  Would you go in and eat while using the WiFil internet connection?
 

Wendy

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I'm not trying to be difficult, but as an accountant, I can see the cost to my hotel if you, a non-guest, come in and eat the continental breakfast. The cost is quantifiable....2 cinnamon rolls, 3 bananas, 2 hard boiled eggs. But if you sit in the parking lot and use my free WiFi, what is the cost? Is there a cost above and beyond the cost of having and maintaining the system which is there for the guests? As I said, I'm not being difficult, I just don't see the cost.

BYW, I now see the error of my previous argument....if someone breaks into my house and watches my TV and that TV wouldn't otherwise be on, there's an electricity cost and I've been financially damaged.
 
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