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Researchers Test WiFi Access From Moving Vehicles

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the catch-me-if-you-can dept.

Microsoft 155

Julie188 writes "Researchers from Microsoft and the University of Massachusetts have been working on a technology that would let mobile phones and other 3G devices automatically switch to public WiFi even while the device is traveling in a vehicle. The technology is dubbed Wiffler and earlier this year its creators took it for a test drive with some interesting results. Although the researchers determined that a reliable public WiFi hotspot would be available to their test vehicles only 11% of the time, the Wiffler protocol was able to offload almost 50% of the data from 3G to WiFi."

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call it what it is (2, Insightful)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882262)

I prefer the OSS term for this technology, "autoleech".

Re:call it what it is (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882420)

I thought this was called "How Google Got In Trouble (aka 'HoGGIT')"

Re:call it what it is (1)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882774)

How many times do I have to tell you, it's HOGGLE!

- Dan.

Re:call it what it is (1)

thousandinone (918319) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883012)

HOw Google Got Legally Ensnared?

Re:call it what it is (1)

DruidFyr (24430) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883470)

How many times do I have to tell you, it's HOGGLE! - Dan.

The real scary part of your reply is how many of us got the reference!
So, which one are you a fan of:

  1. Jim Hensen/Muppets
  2. David Bowie
  3. The Movie "Labrinth"

or all of the above?

Researched this myself (3, Interesting)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882280)

The multipath and doppler effects SUCK. This is why Wimax doesn't work well in vehicles and why the Mobile Wimax variant is more popular in such realms.

But once you have the physical layer taken care of, you can play cool little tricks like data queuing for WAPs to save cost. Locational awareness is also feasible to anticipate whether there will be a hotspot in a quarter of a mile or to go ahead with the transfer now.

Cohda (2, Informative)

femto (459605) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882428)

You need this [cohdawireless.com] , a box which eliminates doppler and multipath from 802.11 channels.

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883506)

Mod parent up

not gonna work (4, Insightful)

alex_guy_CA (748887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882298)

I had my phone setup to auto connect to wifi, but there is a lot of wifi out there that looks open and free to my phone, only it takes you to a page where you have to log in. Peets coffe, most hotels.

When I hit one of these, it sort of grinds everything to a halt, as the phone thinks it has a wi-fi connection but does not.

Yo moron (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882342)

Just because it doesn't work on your iFruit doesn't mean that it won't work with something that was designed for this purpose.

Re:Yo moron (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882398)

Just because it doesn't work on your iFruit doesn't mean that it won't work with something that was designed for this purpose.

But how would a city bus line offering Wi-Fi negotiate carriage with every AP on its routes?

Re:Yo moron (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882426)

But how would a city bus line offering Wi-Fi negotiate carriage with every AP on its routes?

And would a bus using this technology in the Netherlands have to register as an ISP?

Re:Yo moron (3, Interesting)

Grismar (840501) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882852)

I certainly hope so, because that will help overturn the rules that imply same for hotels. It simply doesn't make sense; if it has to be regulated, it could just as easily be changed to "a hotel has to register as an ISP if it provides network access to others than their guests". It's besides the point though, as far as TFA is concerned. However, trains already provide Wi-Fi as we speak and buses may just as well - and they'll have a harder time convincing the powers that be that they're not serving the public. It will be nigh impossible to restrict access to people inside the bus, unless you feel like changing the passkey for the connection every you hop onto a bus.

Re:Yo moron (3, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882952)

The transit system around here was working on that for a while. What they did was set up a low power access point in the middle of the bus, and hooked that up to a cellular card. The effect was that you were using WiFi, but since you were in the same reference frame, you didn't have to deal with any of the random interruptions you would otherwise have to deal with.

The main problem would be in tunnels and plain old congestion.

Re:not gonna work (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882372)

There really needs to be a standard way for an access point to say "I have no wireless authentication, but I am not open" when advertising itself, to allow devices to respond appropriately.

Re:not gonna work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882568)

Or your device could test to connect to a few(2-3?) sites/places on the net. If all of them fails it's tries to connect to these places via another wifi hotspot or via gprs/3g/whatever.

Re:not gonna work (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882964)

Traditionally, the way you did that was type in a very weak password. Like 1234, but really, if you haven't got any wireless authentication, you're open, whether you like it or not. The difference between open and closed is whether or not the public has access.

This is a bit like posting a sign that says "please no trespassing, we're not going to call the cops, but we don't want to have to see you trespassing."

Re:not gonna work (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883384)

Not if the router's set up in such a way that you have to log in/purchase time on a web form before it'll actually let your IP address talk to the internet as a whole, which is the problem in question.

Re:not gonna work (3, Interesting)

choongiri (840652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882526)

Right, so you make the technology smart. It connects to the unsecured wireless network, attempts to make outgoing connections, and if the outgoing connection fails (or is redirected to a login page), switches to another network. You could quite easily test the connection in the background before attempting to pass application data to it.

Re:not gonna work (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883144)

The problem with that approach is that it takes a long time, so it isn't suitable for mobile applications (not even if you're just walking). First you have to scan the available frequencies for beacon frames, then you have to send a frame to associate, then you have to receive an acknowledgment, then you have to send a DHCP broadcast, then the DHCP server has to give you an IP address, then you have to send a ping (echo request) to a host on the internet, then you have to get an echo reply back and only then can you start using your application protocol. If at any step you don't get a response (how long do you wait?), you can either retry or restart the whole process (including rescanning, because you may have moved out of range of a previously promising open network).

Grandparent is right: There needs to be a standard way for wireless access points to declare automatic public internet access. Furthermore, the handshakes (association and address negotiation) should be reduced or eliminated.

Re:not gonna work (2, Insightful)

choongiri (840652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883328)

This whole tech, though, is designed for applications where slight delays in sending the data don't matter. It's about offloading 3G usage onto wifi where possible. Every step you mentioned has to happen anyway, and a ping takes what, an extra 50ms? Could it be done more efficiently if you were building up a system from scratch? Sure, but this is about offloading data use onto existing networks.

Define "Public" (2, Insightful)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882306)

There's been a fair number of stories recently of people getting in trouble for "stealing" bandwidth from unsecured wireless routers, and not just when using it for illegal purposes. I don't agree with this. I think it should be the owners responsibility to secure their network, but the possibility for legal ramifications exists.

Re:Define "Public" (3, Informative)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882332)

References to the situation I described:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6960304.stm [bbc.co.uk]
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070116/115327.shtml [techdirt.com]

Re:Define "Public" (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882524)

I anm was arrested. Big deal. Arrest isn't conviction, and regarding the Singapore lad, it's in Singapore. Not exactly number one for human rights.

Re:Define "Public" (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882404)

I don't agree with this. I think it should be the owners responsibility to secure their network, but the possibility for legal ramifications exists.

So, if I have an electrical outlet outside of my house and I don't "secure it", should people be able to plug into my electricity with impunity? How about my garden hose? If I don't physically bar someone from parking in my driveway, that's OK? Is it OK to help yourself to my garden? How about siphoning the gas out of my car?

There's loads of things in the physical world that aren't necessarily secured, but that you don't have a reasonable expectation of being able to use.

I don't agree in any way that just because the wireless isn't 100% locked down that you should get a free pass to just use it. You know you're using a network that isn't yours -- just because you can connect to it doesn't mean you have carte blanch.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882444)

electricity (or the fuel driving the turbine at least) can be used up. Bandwidth can only be saturated.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882490)

You're running under the assumption that the home owner has an unmetered broadband connection.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882994)

In the US, they typically are. Even the ones that do are capped at 250gb which would be hard to max out with WiFi. I've been able to hit that a few times with a wired connection, but doing that over wireless would be tough. Fortunately, the one saving grace of Qwest is that they really don't have a cap.

Re:Define "Public" (2, Informative)

wwfarch (1451799) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883528)

Wireless vs wired has almost no bearing on whether or not you can use up a 250 GB bandwidth limit. The bandwidth available to wifi is typically much higher than the internet bandwidth itself.

Assuming 30 days in a month that 250GB limit would be reached with a consistent throughput of just over 100 KBps. If you can't push that over your wireless connection then you have something seriously wrong in your network setup.

Re:Define "Public" (4, Insightful)

rotide (1015173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882520)

I see where you're going with that line of thinking and I agree to an extent. However, all of those analogies require you to physically go out and take/plug in/steal something that clearly isn't yours and shouldn't be.

Logging onto an unsecured WiFi connection can be done incredibly easy while I'm in my pajamas in the middle of a blizzard. It can also be done innocently and unknowingly. "Wait, there are 4 "linksys" networks, which was mine again?".

While I don't agree with torrenting or otherwise saturating someones connection, leaving it wide open and then being pissed when someone logs onto it is almost as ridiculous as yelling to your neighbor across the street and getting mad when another neighbors listens in and potentially adds their two cents. If you're not going to take the time to secure your broadcast transmissions, don't get pissed at those who listen/use it.

Re:Define "Public" (2, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882692)

Logging onto an unsecured WiFi connection can be done incredibly easy while I'm in my pajamas in the middle of a blizzard. It can also be done innocently and unknowingly. "Wait, there are 4 "linksys" networks, which was mine again?".

*laugh* For one, there is no "it was so easy I did it in my underpants" defense. Ease doesn't equate with right -- stealing candy from babies is trivial, for instance. ;-)

There's also a huge difference between inadvertently using the wrong wifi, and intentionally looking for unsecured wifi.

Sadly, wifi routers are so cheap and easy to get, that lots of people just fire it up, go through the setup wizard, and never think of it again.

For much of the consumer public, these things are treated like toasters. Turn 'em on and go. They just don't realize there's more to it. The availability of the tech has outstripped the knowledge of the people using it.

Right or wrong, these have become consumer devices used as black boxes -- the companies making them should make them a little more secure, and try to steer you into having some protections on it -- having them all have the same SSID and passwords is bad. Unfortunately, that would likely lead to more support issues for them as people call and say "teh wireless doesn't work" as people get lost in the instructions or lose their passwords.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882858)

The only point we're going to agree on seems to be more responsibility from the manufacturers. Personally, I'd like to see the radios turned off by default and you have to go through a little wizard to get them turned on. This would force those who purchase them to choose to offer it to the public, or to secure it. Because, really, you need to take responsibility for your own actions through what you do and what you setup in and around your residence. If you setup an AP that is wide open, well, frankly, in this world of "free wireless here!" you can't expect people to _not_ try to find free WiFi.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883158)

The last couple wifi routers I have bought have been setup in this way, or with a very complex key that you can change if you like, but have to have physical access to see.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883266)

The only point we're going to agree on seems to be more responsibility from the manufacturers.

And, it's important to note that I'm not disagreeing with you per se ... I'm merely advocating for a different position than you. You make some good points, I just don't think it's a binary issue. I think it's far more complex -- categorical statements in most endeavors (I will refrain from saying "all" ;-) aren't really helpful.

Because, really, you need to take responsibility for your own actions through what you do and what you setup in and around your residence. If you setup an AP that is wide open, well, frankly, in this world of "free wireless here!" you can't expect people to _not_ try to find free WiFi.

This is a general issue I see -- the technology has moved along and become widespread faster than the general knowledge of it. So, it becomes a societal issue to try to sort out some of these details. Much like governments don't always do a good job of legislating on technical issues.

On the one hand, we hand these things out like candy and make it "easy" to use. On the other hand, people don't necessarily understand what it is or the ramifications of not using it "safely". Which is why you have an entire generation who isn't aware of the stuff they shouldn't be putting on-line or don't see any problems with posting naked pictures of themselves when they're teenagers.

People in tech rant and drool and say that consumers should be forced to understand what they're using. I point out that if you let anybody use these things, then someone needs to ponder what happens to the people who just innocently use these things an have no idea.

The elitist "l3t the n00bs get pwn3d" point of view doesn't actually help anything, and it forgets that much of the people using these things need to be educated, protected, or both.

As a general policy, I try to see as many sides of the same issue as I can ... it avoids developing tunnel vision.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883274)

Personally, I'd like to see the radios turned off by default and you have to go through a little wizard to get them turned on.

The problem is that most of these use hard-coded IP addresses. If you run DHCP on your network, turning off the radio means you really have to plug the thing into a dedicated network connection to configure it.

Wouldn't it be easier (though slightly more risky) and still within acceptable risk to turn off the ethernet port until it is configured?

Moreover most of the wizards are Windows-only. I don't want to have to start researching which wireless systems I can use on my linux-only network.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883690)

Almost all home wireless routers I see in the UK are either secured and have a default SSID (e.g. BTInternet24829, Thomson3468FE etc) or are unsecured and have a custom SSID (FreeNet, CoffeeShop, etc).

The big ISPs send out routers preconfigured with all the necessary settings, and the default SSID and WPA key on a sticker on the bottom of the router. I just moved house, and my new router came like this, but there's also an option to set up a public (unsecured) network as well. (I haven't bothered yet, we're on a very quiet road and I doubt anyone would use it.)

Re:Define "Public" (1)

gparent (1242548) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883030)

Logging onto an unsecured WiFi connection can be done incredibly easy while I'm in my pajamas in the middle of a blizzard. It can also be done innocently and unknowingly. "Wait, there are 4 "linksys" networks, which was mine again?".

*laugh* For one, there is no "it was so easy I did it in my underpants" defense. Ease doesn't equate with right -- stealing candy from babies is trivial, for instance. ;-)

The difference is that you do not begin automatically stealing candy from babies as you walk around them. The argument is perfectly fine.

Re:Define "Public" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883706)

The difficulty with your whole stealing stuff, is that connection to an unsecured Wireless network is a two-way thing with compliance from the other side. Unless I'm doing things like MAC stealing, if I take a random comp or smartphone, and see an SSID, and ask the network for association, obtain it, and then send data to it, and it willingly puts in on the public Internet and brings back responses, sends ACKs, etc, how do I know I have done anything wrong? My best clues are that it's perfectly fine, since it very easily could have just refused to respond, and it didn't, it went through a multi-step process on the air interface and then it is also going to the trouble of moving those packets somewhere for me. I asked, and it said "yes". If the access point is basically otherwise indistinguishable from the free hotspot or motel (many don't bother with portals), how am I even supposed to even know that I'm not "authorized" to use it, it should just fucking tell me. The electric plug can't do this, and I typically have to infringe on someone's property rights to make use of it without asking for permission. It also helps that there are laws on stealing that readily cover most of the cases you mention. You can be found criminally or civilly liable for those transgressions with near certainty, wireless is a case which bring news defenses (not all so easily dismissed as you seem to think) to the fore.

About the taking candy from a baby not being a defense. The flaw with that, and the reason that it can fail legal defense muster (perhaps you were talking about ethics... but)... is that successful legal arguments (civil) in the past have often looked at the costs to *both* parties to prevent a problem, not just one. Few would argue that a baby is mostly defenseless, and so essentially has infinite costs to protect themselves (they simply can't do it) (I'm referring to civil damages issues here... not the criminal part). I can basically argue that the people putting in wireless routers are not defenseless.

While you could argue that the market and ignorance cause people to do these things, and it isn't "their fault", few people have a gun to their head when putting in an unsecured wireless router, the information about risks are easily available on the Internet. People choose not to follow them. If it were really that big of a legal or safety issue (like, say, electric service), DIY incapable people would pay to have a professional put in their wireless. They don't. They do so willingly, they judge the cost exceeds the benefits (why should I be penalized for *not* questioning their judgement). People pay big bucks for electricians and plumbers. The people that willingly put in an open WiFi router to the Internet with no screening or portal, tells me in enough response packets that its OK to use.

Re:Define "Public" (2, Insightful)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882522)

All of the things you've described have 2 things that make them very different from using unsecured wireless:
  1. All of those things you've described require someone to trespass on your properly to get access to. Wireless could be available from as far away as across the street or in a completely different building.
  2. It's very easy to secure a wireless network, whereas securing those physical things would be rather awkward.
  3. There's no easy way to know if the network is public, or someone's private unsecured network. Sometimes it's obvious, but often it isn't.
  • Last year when I went to Myrtle Beach for a vacation, the beach had public wifi set up for anyone to use. There were also some private wifi from the nearby condos that were unsecured. If I hadn't been told about the public wifi on the beach by the condo company I rented from, I wouldn't have known which was which. The SIDs weren't named to be obviously private or public.)

Re:Define "Public" (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882560)

So that's three things.

(On each hand. So, six things total.)

Re:Define "Public" (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882572)

Haha, whoops. Thought of another while I was writing and forgot to num++ in my first paragraph.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882664)

That's OK. It gave me the delightful opportunity to decide whether to make a Spanish Inquisition joke or a Penny Arcade joke. ;)

Re:Define "Public" (2, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882618)

And if you leave your front porch light on, should I be able to stand on the public sidewalk and read by it?

Or, if you leave your blinds open and your big screen T.V. on, should I be able to stand on the public sidewalk and watch?

Your cases are different because there are per-usage charges for the items you mention: water and electricity. If you paid a flat-rate for either, regardless of usage, it would be an interesting question. Especially because neither of them are "yours", you are just paying for usage from a utility.

A different case for your driveway, garden or gasoline. They are finite resources that use by another deprives your of their use. That is one of the basic issues behind theft.

Internet bandwidth, if used such that it didn't interfere with your usage, is a different animal. As long as you aren't saturating it, you aren't suffering a loss either of money or resource. With out a loss of product or service, how can you justify calling it a crime?

Re:Define "Public" (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882808)

Your cases are different because there are per-usage charges for the items you mention

My internet is charged and metered. If I go beyond a certain amount, I pay for it. So, it's not a flat-rate, infinite supply scenario. Until my ISP stops telling me that bandwidth is finite and metered, it remains so.

Now, my wifi is locked down, but I just don't think your argument about bandwidth holds water. I would argue for most people, their internet connection is far from being an un-metered, infinite service.

With out a loss of product or service, how can you justify calling it a crime?

By trying not to allow myself an overly elastic definition of such things and constructing a narrow argument in which you could argue that it's not a problem.

It's unauthorized access to someone's network. You don't have explicit permission, and you're arguing that you either have implicit permission, or that no harm is being done -- I disagree with both.

Do I think people should learn to lock down their wifi? Absolutely. Do I think you should be able to use any wifi which isn't locked down? Absolutely not.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883044)

If you've failed to set up any authentication you've given everybody permission to use it. You set up authentication so that you limit who is and is not allowed to use it. That's the way that authentication works, an open or blank password is the same thing as granting permission to whomever it is that wants to log in. That's the reason why people use blank passwords. If you care who it is that logs in you don't use a blank password.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

chill (34294) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883106)

Interesting. Standard setup in the U.S., from major Cable/DSL/Fiber ISPs is a flat-rate, unmetered connection that is limited by data rate (and ISP whim). Short of a satellite or cellphone connection, I can't remember the last time I saw a metered connection offered.

With an open WiFi connection -- the only type I'm discussing -- you're walking a fine line with your definition. The problem is many systems are set up out-of-the-box to connect to any open wifi link in range. It makes life easier for tech support. The WAP broadcasts beacons and announcements into the public space, and any auto-connect would technically constitute accessing someone's network without explicit permission. Hell, my phone will auto-switch from 3G to wifi if available for and data access. I might not even notice which it is on when I use it to get e-mail or browse the web. I have an unmetered data plan on my phone, so don't pay it any attention.

So, yes. I'm arguing that the nature of open wifi accessible from public space gives implicit permission. This is why government and many corporate networks have login screens with dire warnings saying you must have EXPLICIT permission to access.

From a technical standpoint, this will soon be moot. Just about every WAP sold recently now comes with one of those "push button to secure network" features, making it brain-dead to lock your network.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883386)

Interesting. Standard setup in the U.S., from major Cable/DSL/Fiber ISPs is a flat-rate, unmetered connection that is limited by data rate (and ISP whim).

Here in Canada, you get X Gigs/month at one rate. As you go over that, you essentially pay per gig. I had understood that even in the US, "unlimited" came with footnotes that essentially say "unlimited does not mean unlimited".

So, yes. I'm arguing that the nature of open wifi accessible from public space gives implicit permission.

I'm not saying that's false, and I'm not saying it's true. I'm saying it seems a bit of a gray area, and I'm willing to bet most of what we're saying here doesn't have sufficient case law to actually say much more than what we think. Which seems to be something that happens a lot with tech. Something becomes trivial, but has ramifications, and nobody has fully explored them and what to do about them.

From a technical standpoint, this will soon be moot. Just about every WAP sold recently now comes with one of those "push button to secure network" features, making it brain-dead to lock your network.

Technology both gets us into, and out of some of these things. In the spots in between, it's not often 100% clear on what is right, what is wrong, and what should be worked around until we have something better.

Cheers

Re:Define "Public" (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883072)

Or, if you leave your blinds open and your big screen T.V. on, should I be able to stand on the public sidewalk and watch?

Well that is a special case, there might be local laws regarding peering into open windows.

But I think your point is valid. If I leave my wireless unsecured and it is spilling outside my house such that someone on the street can connect to the network, I can't really claim anyone is stealing my wireless. I made it accessible to the public. If I left a bowl of candy sitting on my front step, I'm not going to get angry at kids for stealing my candy.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883248)

Or, if you leave your blinds open and your big screen T.V. on, should I be able to stand on the public sidewalk and watch?

At least until the NFL catches wind of it and drops lawyers on you for a public showing of their broadcast without express written consent.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883306)

Most ISPs have stopped selling unlimited broadband. There's almost always a cap. Personally I only have a 25 GB cap, because it's cheaper and I almost never need more than that. Now if someone was leeching off my internet, they could easily download a couple torrents, and go through all that bandwidth in a couple days. Granted I secure my internet, so I have nobody leeching off my internet. However, there really is no argument that leeching from an open wifi router isn't stealing. If you download 1 GB of data, that's 1 GB less of data for me to use. And possible could charge extra fees on my bill.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883732)

If you don't want to share your resources with the public, quit using the public airwaves to broadcast the availability of your resources for free, which is what an open access point does. It specifically tells other systems that it is there. It tells those systems that it is available. It assigns them the necessary address information required to make use of it. It happily routes for them. It does all of this across what the government considers a public resource: a segment of the EM spectrum used for communications.

If you broadcast your SSID, you leave your access point open, you don't filter MAC addresses at the AP, you don't filter MAC addresses at the DHCP assignments, and you route traffic for passersby, then your network is both offering directly supporting their use. They are not maliciously taking something. You have your network configured to offer it. Whether you have to pay for what you're offering is of no concern. People offer to share what they've paid for all the time. It's called generosity.

In your specific case, you have your WiFi secured. That means your network is specifically telling people they are not free to use it.

There's a very old process people have of getting rid of stuff: they put it at the curb with a sign saying, "Free for the hauling" or something similar. If people broadcast to the curbside that their network access is free for me to use, I should be able to assume they mean it.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882796)

Would people be able to access your utilities without physically trespassing on your property?
Would someone be able to use your garden hose without leaving the comfort of their own home?

But then, does it cause you grief if someone on the sidewalk is listening to the music you are playing even though you paid (presumably) for the CD, and they are simply freeloading? You could turn it down or close the window (secure it from prying ears)

Re:Define "Public" (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883022)

Would people be able to access your utilities without physically trespassing on your property?
Would someone be able to use your garden hose without leaving the comfort of their own home?

I merely make a counter-point to that argument that if the owner hasn't made steps to secure it, you get to use the resource with impunity. A point for discussion, not an absolutely final statement. I tend not to believe in black and white situations, and exploring the gray is often more interesting.

Sometimes, things which are fairly cut and dry in the "real world" get somewhat muddy when you add "with a computer". Some of these things tend to be a little more nuanced than most people's immediate reaction of "you haven't stopped me, so you've given me permission". In this case, I'm not convinced that failure to secure it is open permission. There are reasons why courts sometimes struggle to properly apply case law to these things -- because the analogies to real world things get muddied, and you get new corner cases. Precisely because you can't always use the same reasoning in the same way.

But then, does it cause you grief if someone on the sidewalk is listening to the music you are playing even though you paid (presumably) for the CD, and they are simply freeloading?

Me, personally? I don't care at all -- except to make sure I'm not annoying my neighbors.

However, someone like the RIAA could (and I believe has) make the argument that my stereo then becomes a public performance and that they're owed royalties.

At which point, you standing on the sidewalk affects my legal situation, and I do care. Much like someone might care if, say, you were using their wifi as a shield to do something illegal like download kiddie porn or plan a terrorist attack.

I wouldn't want to see someone's grandmother charged because she didn't know enough to prevent someone from using her wireless for illegal purposes. All she wanted to do was log into her laptop to see pictures of her grandchild.

Generally, I fall on the side of saying that if you don't have explicit permission, you're treading on unlawfully accessing someone's computer system. If you do anything illegal, you've gone ever further into unsupportable activity. If you "borrow" a couple of gigs of bandwidth and cost them money, you're in full on theft of service the same as if you spliced their powerline.

Re:Define "Public" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883332)

The reason why unencrypted wireless networks must be seen as publicly accessible is that that is the only way deliberately open wireless LANs can be used. There is no way your phone or laptop can distinguish an accidentally open wireless LAN from an intentionally open wireless LAN. If there were public power outlets and your outlet looked just like a public power outlet, it would indeed be your responsibility to secure it (i.e. make it obvious that the outlet isn't meant to be used by the public).

Since it is technically impossible to make a radio frequency transmission private without encryption, the wireless LAN standard does not have a separate way of declaring a WLAN public. This distinction is made by not encrypting the signal.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

camcorder (759720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882990)

And what gives you the right to spread radio waves in my home? I don't think connecting to an unprotected wireless network is criminal issue as in your analogies, but an ethical issue.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883018)

So, if I have an electrical outlet outside of my house and I don't "secure it", should people be able to plug into my electricity with impunity?

No. But, as has been stated before, that analogy is flawed.

If you plugged a bright orange extension cord into your outlet, ran it down onto the sidewalk, and attached a 4-foot-high sign that said "FREE ELECTRICITY - PLEASE HELP YOURSELF" could you then call the cops when someone plugged in to the outlet? They are on a public space, using a resource you've advertised as available for public use.

That's how routers are designed. You can configure them so that the public can use them. Or you can configure them so they tell people that the signal is not for public use. These are clear and easy settings on the router that allow you, as the router's owner, to indicate to others whether that signal is for public use or not. If you've configured them to broadcast the availability of a freely-available connection and you've allowed that signal to intrude on a public space, then how am I to tell you didn't want my phone to use it as I'm driving by?

If you don't want people to use it, it's a trivial matter to configure your router to stop inviting people to use it. Turn off SSID. Lower the signal strength so it stays on your own property and out of public spaces. Implement WEP or WPA.

If someone then intrudes on your property or attempts to hack your network after you've indicated that you don't want it used, I'll be right alongside you supporting charging the assholes with trespassing or some other crime, and put some teeth into enforcement.

But you have to take the first step. If you insist on intruding on public spaces with your open signal, you really have no right to complain if someone uses it. Unless, of course, you've successfully petitioned the FCC and hold a license for exclusive use of that channel in your vicinity. Good luck with that.

The nice side effect to taking the 5 minutes to enable WPA2 is that you are also protected from snoops, because the data is no longer sent out "in the clear" for anyone in the vicinity to intercept.

Are you really comfortable with anyone with a Pringles can and a netbook being able to record your email password? Is saving the 5 minutes to secure your network really that important to you, that you expect the rest of the world to understand that "yes means no if I say it" and you're willing to take security risks with all the data you send over that channel on an annual basis.

Hell, you could have secured your network in less time than it took you to type your post, and solved the problem yourself rather than expecting the rest of the world to do it for you.

Re:Define "Public" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883086)

Are you broadcasting the electricity? Is there a signal going out from your meter saying "gstoddart power here, use me"? If you run your hose into my yard am I supposed to not use your water? Maybe I cannot park in your driveway, but what about on the street in front of the house? I may not enter your garden, but if you leave fruit in the street unattended whose is it? I may not take gas from your car, but what about if you leave a gas can on the street with a sign saying "gas here, open access"?

Re:Define "Public" (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883272)

Your electrical outlet is on your property; using it is tresspassing. Youe wifi signal is on MY propery. If you plug an extension cord into that outlet and toss the other end in my yard, I'm going to assume you have a flat fee for electricity and don't mind sharing it with me.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883324)

Well, to take the garden hose analogy and run with it->

If I have a garden hose laying in my yard and it's running and a neighbor walks INTO my yard and drags it over to HIS yard and waters his flowers with it, then that would be "theft" of my water.

If I have a sprinkler in my yard and it's going into my neighbors yard and watering his grass, I can't complain that he's benefiting from my water.

The extension cord analogy is the same, if a neighbor walks into my yard and plugs something into my extension cord ON MY YARD, then that would be "stealing" electricity. If I flop an extension cord into HIS yard and leave it there, and he plugs into it, how can I complain?

If I was broadcasting some sort of tesla coil wireless power technology and my neighbors leached off it, is that stealing? I'm shooting "magical power" onto their property, who am I to complain?

These analogies don't work. People need to secure their APs if they have neighbors, it's just that simple. Conversely, I tell my customers that if they live out in the country and it's simply impossible for a neighbor to pick up their wifi, leave it unsecured unless they're the paranoid type.

To expand on your garden hose analogy. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883330)

>How about my garden hose?

I think your garden hose analogy is quite appropriate.

You are correct, that I should be able to walk onto your property and turn on your water and use your garden hose.

But what if you set up a sprinkler in your yard, and some of your water sprays over into my yard?

Should I be able to set out a bowl and collect the water that you are spraying into my yard? I think so.

Your hypothetical unsecured wireless router is broadcasting beyond the boundaries of your property, and by the protocol it is using, is announcing itself to the world as being available for anyone to use. Why shouldn't anyone be able to use it?

Re:To expand on your garden hose analogy. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883500)

Your hypothetical unsecured wireless router is broadcasting beyond the boundaries of your property, and by the protocol it is using, is announcing itself to the world as being available for anyone to use. Why shouldn't anyone be able to use it?

And, to answer a question with another question ...

The closest example I can think of to this is satellite and other telecoms signals. Does the fact that a signal reaches you give you the legal right to use it? Or is it still considered private?

I know broadcasters have argued that the signal is still theirs and you can't use it without their permission.

I don't think any single analogy will cover all of the bases. And, I don't really claim to have an answer ... mostly just questions. ;-)

Re: Define "Obvious" (1)

colinnwn (677715) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883564)

First, all the things you specified requires a user to come onto your property without authorization to obtain them. Radio frequencies spill onto adjacent properties unless you make an effort to prevent that from happening, with lower power or physical barriers (wet concrete walls or Faraday cages.) So it isn't a good comparison.

But beyond that, unsecured wireless connections usually have a DHCP server running on them that is in essence advertising access and providing IP addresses to any takers. So if you do nothing to secure your wireless network, and someone connects using a DHCP aware client, then you have invited them to use your internet access.

Now if you have wireless without an encryption key, and you've changed the SSID to , or you have IP filtering, or MAC filtering, or don't have a DHCP server running and are statically setting IP addresses on clients, and someone connects to your wireless by setting their IP or MAC address to a known good IP or MAC on your network, then maybe I can agree with your reasoning.

Re:Define "Public" (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883028)

I think it should be the owners responsibility to secure their network

Secure the computers, leave internet access unfettered. If I see an unsecured access point my assumption is that the owner isn't a selfish hog and doesn't mind sharing his bandwidth.

Theres never been a problem using wifi in a car... (1, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882312)

... so long as its not moving. If you're a passenger in a car doing 70mph you're going to be in and out of range of a wifi hotspot in a matter of seconds so what exactly is the point of this research? To prevent people getting bored in traffic jams in towns?

Re:Theres never been a problem using wifi in a car (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33882352)

so what exactly is the point of this research?

To work as well as it did in the real-world tests they put it through? RTFA. Fucking idiot.

Re:Theres never been a problem using wifi in a car (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882374)

It could be useful on a bus -- they tend to be in cities, the passengers tend to be bored, and they don't go very fast. (Cars in cities too, but they tend not to have passengers.)

It might work on a train, but railways are less likely to be in WiFi range (tunnels, and the land around railways isn't often the kind of place you'd get free WiFi). It's probably easier to stick with the current system: have a WiFi hotspot on the train and let that figure out what to do (3G, Satellite, or however they do it).

Re:Theres never been a problem using wifi in a car (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882414)

If you are in a wifi hotspot 15% of the time it offloads 15% of the 3g usage. Thats the point. 3g is expensive.

Re:Theres never been a problem using wifi in a car (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882668)

Correction, 3G is artificially expensive (come on, NOBODY needs to account in pence per Mb any more!), sticking the equivalent of a basic business DSL-line connected DSL on every cell tower would cost nothing and allowing roaming between countries where the same operator is present in both (T-Mobile, I'm looking at you) means that's data is basically pence per Gb. You can QoS-limit it over the airwaves to prevent congestion (it SHOULD be the lowest priority traffic, even below SMS if that can be done) but nothing in the world stops 3G actually always being better than crowding a city with 2.4GHz meshes.

I ran an entire school with 150 machines off a 3G stick - in the centre of a large London town (about 10 miles from the city centre), situated in the middle of a busy shopping street, with god-knows how many other 3G users, with interference from hundreds of nearby phones, with several other 3G sticks just metres away (the actual dongle was stuck in the main network room in the centre of the building with miles of copper coming into / out of it, crammed against other USB devices), all getting decent connections and speeds and because it was only for an emergency, we ran for 8 hours with that configuration and ordinary users didn't spot the difference between that and their normal 24Mbps ADSL connection, even when the Internet was being used for lessons (admittedly local caching helped a lot). The deal we got was PAYG 3G on a £10 stick that, for £2 a day, let us use up to 3Gb a month. We did 3Gb in that day and bought ANOTHER lots of sticks / SIM's to keep us safe for the next day - we ran that config for 20 days while our broadband was restored (even though T-Mobile would only limit us if we went over on any one SIM, not block us or charge us). So looking at that, it cost us 66p per Gb, and was more than capable of running a school in peak period in a technologically busy city. We were quite within our rights to just keep buying 3G sticks, or even just PAYG SIM's, and carrying on with that forever.

3G is artificially limited by the carriers. Anything that competes with that is welcome because the carriers can and will just drop prices to force them out of the market (and then probably raise them again when they're gone). But there is nothing in 3G or 4G that stops it from doing a much better job than public Wifi whenever you can get any sort of 3G signal at all. 3G isn't "expensive", using current-day carriers that support 3G is expensive - there's a difference.

P.S. I have a stack of cheap 3G USB dongles if anyone is interested... :-)

Re:Theres never been a problem using wifi in a car (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882450)

The problem you describe isn't really a problem. It's been solved on a small scale.This could solve it on a huge scale.
There are many uses for connecting to the internet beside surfing and watching videos.

Re:Theres never been a problem using wifi in a car (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883038)

Unless th vehicle is moving slowly then by the time the device has negotiated a connection with a wifi hotspot then its probably already out of range.

good for text messaging, notgood for streaming vid (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882354)

Wiffler is smart about when to send the packets. It doesn't replace 3G, it augments it and transmits over WiFi simultaneously, allowing users to set WiFi as the delivery method of choice when it is available -- and when an application can tolerate it. Not every application can handle even a few seconds delay in the stream (VoIP) -- and WiFi tends to drop more packets than 3G does. But many apps can handle even a minutes-worth of delay perfectly well (messaging).

Re:good for text messaging, notgood for streaming (1)

DCstewieG (824956) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882648)

So the benefit of WiFi speeds can be used for extremely low bandwidth needs, but not high ones. Great, I'll be much happier that my 50 byte messages go over WiFi after a couple minutes than over 3G immediately.

Re:good for text messaging, notgood for streaming (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883104)

I take it you're not an AT&T customer.

11% of the time (3, Funny)

jc42 (318812) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882408)

... researchers determined that a reliable public WiFi hotspot would be available to their test vehicles only 11% of the time ...

but then a closer look found that in those cases, 99% had the SID "Free Public WiFi".

Re:11% of the time (1)

choongiri (840652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882614)

That is funny, but it also does say "reliable"... presumably that means "with functioning internet access".

Re:11% of the time (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883236)

... presumably that means "with functioning internet access".

Well, I wouldn't bet on that. In my experience, when the connection-state display widget on a screen says 4 bars of signal, it means you have "reliable" messages between your gadget and one relay tower. It doesn't mean you can reliably exchange data with anything beyond that tower. It's merely the level-1 link status.

Does anyone's handset actually test connection to a remote site before showing its "4 bars" status?

Re:11% of the time (1)

choongiri (840652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883372)

Random handsets, no, but we're talking about the researchers' connections from their vehicle. I would hope that when specifically testing for availability, the researchers did a little more than drive around and see if their iphone could associate with the ap ;)

Re:11% of the time (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883594)

I would hope that when specifically testing for availability, the researchers did a little more than drive around and see if their iphone could associate with the ap ;)

Yeah, I'd hope so, too. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Actually, with WiFI, it typically takes several seconds for a "connection" to the AP to stabilize. Consider the typical range of 30 or 40 m with WiFi APs, if you're in a moving vehicle, what are the chances you'd still be in range by the time the reply to a TCP message came back?

Re:11% of the time (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883410)

I've actually seen this issue with wifi. With the laptops that work uses, the green bars icon at the bottom can show 4 green bars - indicating that the user has good signal. To the laptop only.

If you look on the controller/access point, there are times that the user's laptop is having severe difficulty reaching the AP - hence even though the user has 4 or 5 bars, the AP cannot process any packets (they're garbage) and the user's applications don't work.

I think that the cell towers/phones work the same way. I don't believe that there's a communication from the tower to the cell phone saying "you're coming in at 20db S/N" - the phone is just displaying how good of a signal it's seeing from the tower. That's it......

Thats thinking too small (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882422)

I've been saying it be over a decade: put the repeaters in the cars, create a dynamic mesh network. Don't correctly, a signal could travel hundreds of miles, from vehicle to vehicle. Pretty much all centrals of large populations would have WiFi access corresponding to the number of people using it.

Re:Thats thinking too small (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882550)

And the latency would be *atrocious*. Yeah, for a simple text message it might be okay, but for anything beyond that, it'd be a lesson in frustration.

Ricochet (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882434)

This seems to be leaning towards a variant of Ricochet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricochet_(Internet_service) [wikipedia.org] I was actually pretty bummed out that they failed. They were way ahead of their time.

Using the phone while driving (1)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882474)

I feel like this is just encouraging me to use the phone and internet while driving. Awesome. Nothing more annoying than slow internet in slow traffic.

Re:Using the phone while driving (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883358)

It's for passengers, not drivers. Using the internet (or texting or reading a book) while driving is just plain stupid and dangerous to others.

Why should we have to... (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882584)

use two different technologies in the first place. Cellular technology is obviously the clear winner with respect to mobile data communications when you can't be tied down to a WiFi base station. It isn't the technology that's the problem, it's the business model. Since it's obvious Verizon and kin are running the wrong direction on this maybe it's time to look at ways to compel them to operate differently.

100% Wifi (1)

jojabo (1229100) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882610)

11% of the time it works all the time

Transparently switching from secure to insecure (1)

apparently (756613) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882674)

networks is supposed to be a good thing?

"Researchers from Microsoft and the University of Massachusetts have been working on a technology that would let mobile phones and other 3G devices automatically switch to public WiFi even while the device is traveling in a vehicle.

"Hey my traffic can't be sniffed, hey my traffic is now being sniffed, hey it's secure again, now it's not!" Brilliant.

Broadcast to all your neighbours automagically (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883504)

wireless networking is supposed to be a good thing?

"Hey my traffic is broadcast to everyone around me. Please sniff and brute-force my keys, before I lose them myself! I can't be bothered to do security Right, by installing a proper wired network."

Captcha: streams

Sarcasm off

Re:Broadcast to all your neighbours automagically (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883598)

And that has what, exactly, to do with GP's post?

Already been done (2, Interesting)

BodeNGE (1664379) | more than 3 years ago | (#33882748)

It's already been done in 2007 by Nokia and Siemens, and is part of the 3GPP standard. 3GPP TR 23.806 (for voice, but works for data too). Repeat after me all you Americans: International standards are better than propriatary ones.

802.11p (2, Interesting)

SirMasterboy (872152) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883014)

Isn't this idea kind of what the 802.11p amendment that was published last summer was for?

only 50% - must not have been on 128 at rush hours (3, Insightful)

Locutus (9039) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883040)

with the typical AP having only a 300m range in open air and traveling at 55+ MPH, they would be in and out of the AP quite quickly. But, if they were sitting in traffic then that would be another story. I've been quite disappointed with how many of the Android apps rely on 100% data connectivity instead of intermittent connectivity. Even the facebook app just dumps a notification and does not continue with the post or upload unless the user interacts with the notification. I found no setting in the maps/navigation app to cache the route but must rely on me manually scrolling through the entire route to cache it and then hit the road. Believe it or not, there are still dead xG spots out there and wifi-only is currently not an option.

Maybe this study will wake up the apps developers to intermittent connectivity and make the device much easier to use.

LoB

Re:only 50% - must not have been on 128 at rush ho (1)

Nerftoe (74385) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883654)

I love Wolfram Alpha:

55mph for 300M [wolframalpha.com]

moD up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33883174)

Tot any BSD project, 1sn't a lemonade

Less Radio More Wires (1)

mutherhacker (638199) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883444)

Am I the only one who is against the proliferation of data over radio? Be that wifi, 3g, 4g or whatever? It has been proven that radio waves transfer their energy to nearby tissue so if we keep this up, I think it's a matter of time before the human lifespan is 8 years old from radio waves induced cancer.

Re:Less Radio More Wires (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883620)

It has been proven that radio waves transfer their energy to nearby tissue

"Proven?" It's elementary physics. Energy is transfered to and from your body all the time from the air, objects, sound, light, and yes, EM waves. This isn't a point of contention (unless you're from the 1600s). The question is to what degree do radio waves stimulate cancer growth, and that is still open.

How to handle protocols sessions? (1)

LordAzuzu (1701760) | more than 3 years ago | (#33883708)

I was wondering how do they deal with the various protocols sessions, jumping from wan to wan?
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