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Wireless Hijacker Dealt First UK Punishment

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the surely-not-the-last dept.

The Courts 663

paella_dodger writes "The BBC is reporting on a recent UK court case whereby a man was fined £500, sentenced to 12 months' conditional discharge and had his laptop confiscated for browsing the 'net on his neighbour's wireless Internet conenction. Perhaps I should secure my neighbour's wireless connection for him before Windows automagically connects to it and gets me arrested!"

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In Perspective... (3, Insightful)

md81544 (619625) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212409)

As has been mentioned on /. on several times before when this particular case came up, this guy didn't accidentally or "automagically" attach to his neighbour's wifi network: he sat outside their house, in his car, and acted very suspiciously when they walked past (e.g. snapping his laptop shut). He'd been doing this over a three month period. To my mind his punishment was more a result of his behaviour than mere connection to some idiot's wide open wireless network.

Re:In Perspective... (3, Informative)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212416)

Wrong guy, different case, and hell, different country even.

Re:In Perspective... (1)

md81544 (619625) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212424)

Since when was Ealing not in the UK? See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4721723.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:In Perspective... (1)

rikkards (98006) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212617)

Ealing may be in the UK, but the GGP was talking about a case in Florida (I think either way it was in the US)

Re:In Perspective... (5, Insightful)

bioteq (809524) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212452)

Perhaps, but the same logic still applies; this guy was not just stealing it, he was making himself a target to be caught.

He is obviously not very smart, either, considering he was seen for the past three months in the same locations. That usualy means he was using the same network for the same deeds each time.

Honestly, I do not blame the UK government for going down on this guy; he deserves it. Especially since he was stupid enough to get caught the way he did. Sure, war driving is one thing, but blatently sitting infront of someone's home, leeching their network is a whole different case.

Sadly, this is just like what happened to the term "hacker" back in the day - it was idiots, like this guy, that ruined it for the real "hackers" out there; the script kiddies. Now, guys like this, and the other guy that got caught doing it, will give the term "war driving" a bad name. Hell, you mention "war driving" somewhere and people are going to start believing you're a "hacker" who uses "linux" to steal credit cards from them.

All in all, people should learn to secure their wireless networks. If they are unable to, or know nothing about the processes, they should be wired like the other drones. Or they should simply hire someone to secure it for them -- It's honestly not that difficult these days, especially with a linksys router. You simply type in a few things and click a coulpe check boxes and you're done. But this does prove that the common person, joe sixpack if you will, does not care enough about computer security to do anything until someone takes advantage of them. Then they cry foul.

Re:In Perspective... (0)

cperciva (102828) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212456)

Wrong guy, different case, and hell, different country even.

RTFA. The grandparent's summary is accurate.

Re:In Perspective... (0)

shellbeach (610559) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212525)

As has been mentioned on /. on several times before when this particular case came up, this guy didn't accidentally or "automagically" attach to his neighbour's wifi network: he sat outside their house, in his car, and acted very suspiciously when they walked past (e.g. snapping his laptop shut). He'd been doing this over a three month period. To my mind his punishment was more a result of his behaviour than mere connection to some idiot's wide open wireless network.

And as has also been previously mentioned on /. this guy did nothing technically wrong. The wireless network was inviting him to connect to it, and he obliged. Or is it now illegal for me to use the wireless network at my university?? Perhaps I'll get arrested for suspiciously sitting in the library with my laptop open?? It's exactly the same situation: an unsecured access point is actively broadcasting it's presence and letting people know that it's available.

His behaviour was immoral - obviously, it's fairly unlikely that anyone is purposely sharing their wireless network - but not illegal. The fact that he could be punished for this just goes to prove what a bunch of IT-ignorant people make/apply the laws ...

Re:In Perspective... (1)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212639)

His behaviour was immoral - obviously, it's fairly unlikely that anyone is purposely sharing their wireless network - but not illegal.

If he were to say 'yes I let him connect' then his ISP could probably sue him for breach of contract. So even if the neighbor didnt mind, he probably can't say so in court...

First post! (0, Offtopic)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212410)

But i've probably already been posted ahead of. :(.

Re:First post! (1)

a.different.perspect (817184) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212509)

Maybe if you'd stolen a faster internet connection. :(

excellent (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212417)

so, i'm gonna have to stop doing my bittorrent across my neighbours wireless broadband and go back to criminalising myself...

fantastic...

How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (0, Flamebait)

TheSloth2001ca (893282) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212419)

If the network is OPEN then u should be able to use it at will. if you don't want anyone to use your wireless network then secure it somehow. Now anyone that wants u use it has to break you security and that can be considered a crime. If it's OPEN its fair game.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

fourharpoon (738994) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212441)

If ur door is opened, is it legal for me to get in and grab your hi-fi?
And BTW, do you have a hi-fi set?

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (0, Troll)

ejito (700826) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212469)

Your analogy blows. His door isn't on public property.

Someone's wifi signal goes everywhere, including other people's houses. Using an open wifi signal isn't breaking into anything.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212481)

Yeah, and those spammers using open relays to send millions of email messages isn't a problem either. More power to 'em!

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212485)

No need to be so pedantic...if his car (parked on public property) is unlocked, can I sleep on the back seat overnight if I'm too drunk to walk home?

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

TheSloth2001ca (893282) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212504)

MY car is Private property ( i think) so your analogy wont work here

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

TheSloth2001ca (893282) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212480)

The diference is that said hi-fiset exists in teh physical world, and if u take it then i cant use it. if u use your Wi-fi connection u can still use it, and if i am using all your bandwidth then just kick me off

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

TheSloth2001ca (893282) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212493)

what i ment to say was "if i use your Wi-fi connection u can still use it, and if i am using all your bandwidth then just kick me off" thats better. i need to get some sleep

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

DoktorTomoe (643004) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212487)

It may not be legal, but at least it puts you in a difficult situation when you try to claim money from your insurance.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

a whoabot (706122) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212503)

Yeah, but this "hijacker" sent a request for an IP from their wireless router. His request was granted and he was given access.

Say there is a computer at his entrance. It says "Welcome" when you walk up. You type into it: "Can I come in and take your hi-fi?" And it responds with "Yeah, sure" and it opens the door for you. That's pretty much what happened I'd say.

Is it OK if I look through your window to watch TV (1)

kt0157 (830611) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212583)

This idea of "theft" is one put about by RIAA and MPAA. Don't confuse things.

A better analogy than stealing hifi would be if looked through your window and watched your TV that you left turned on. Is that illegal? Is it immoral?

K.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

theamazingflyingshee (900968) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212450)

I agree, or they should be secured as default and have to be made open manually.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

James Youngman (3732) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212453)

If the network is OPEN then u should be able to use it at will.
[...]
If it's OPEN its fair game.
That might summarise the way you would like the world to be, but it's not the way it actually is.

Besides, I'm sure that you would agree that spammers sending spam through an open relay are commiting a service-theft crime. Having the open relay is really stupid on the part of the owner of the mail server, but it doesn't make the abuse any less wrong.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

tha_mink (518151) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212557)

"That might summarise the way you would like the world to be, but it's not the way it actually is.
Besides, I'm sure that you would agree that spammers sending spam through an open relay are commiting a service-theft crime. Having the open relay is really stupid on the part of the owner of the mail server, but it doesn't make the abuse any less wrong."


Actually, I think a better analogy would be the drive in theatre. If you are parked outside the theatre, on public property, would it be illegal for you to listen to the short range FM broadcast they produce for sound on their movie? Or better yet, if you are driving behind someone who has XM Radio and you can hear their short range FM broadcast, is it wrong for you to listen?

I mean, if your network is BROADCASTING a welcome and providing DHCP for ANYONE...then that's fair game to me.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212588)

No, I would not agree. An open relay, like an open wireless access point, is its owner's choice. There is no way to tell an open resource from a closed service other than attempting to connect and seeing whether you're being challenged to provide credentials. If you want to start requiring in-person permission before anyone can communicate with someone else's computers, then please turn off the internet, because "unauthorized" communication is all that ever happens on this network. I don't have explicit permission to connect to the Slashdot webserver. Is this post a crime (unauthorized access to a computer/network)?

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (2, Insightful)

balloonhead (589759) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212609)

Sending spam is a crime. Using an open relay is not. Spammers using this are committing a crime, but not the one you point out.

Open networks require a handshake between the router and PC. This is analogous to authorising use.

One says 'Hi, can I use your network'

The other says 'Yes'

The owner of the network authorised this by turning the thing on.

I don't agree with the top post though - I leave my network open, I don't mind people using it. If they abuse it, they get kicked. I use other people's networks to send and receive email and to do the odd bit of surfing.

If I commit a crime on their network, then I am a criminal. But using a network which I have been authorised to use to do legal things is very different.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (0)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212468)

Ah, right. So if you have your door open in summer, I'm welcome to walk into your house and help myself to some of the cookies that are on the kitchen table? Or print a few copies of the document you happen to have open on your PC? Just because something is easy doesn't mean it's morally justified.

Maybe you have a different opinion about the matter, but I don't like constantly having to think about how things can be abused and what I can do to prevent that. I heartily agree that this men should be fined for his abuses.

Of course, if you want to keep something inaccessible, you should put proper mechanisms in place to enforce that. If you don't, and people gain access, you have yourself to blame for it.

Speaking generally, not about this particular case (1)

a.different.perspect (817184) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212531)

Ah, right. So if you have your door open in summer, I'm welcome to walk into your house and help myself to some of the cookies that are on the kitchen table? Or print a few copies of the document you happen to have open on your PC?

The problem is that Windows will automatically put you inside the house, and you don't have to have done anything so conscious and specific as take cookies or print documents to steal bandwidth - you could just open IE and go to Google without thinking about it too much at all.

Just because something is easy doesn't mean it's morally justified.

True. But when something's done for you, and not by you, your moral responsibility for it is rather slender.

Re:Speaking generally, not about this particular c (1)

SimilarityEngine (892055) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212573)

Are you saying this guy unconciously, repeatedly, hijacked the connection? If not then isn't he in the same kind of ethical position as someone who waltzes in through your open front door and takes the cookies?

Okay, I know you're not his lawyer, I'm just asking for clarification on your position.

Re:Speaking generally, not about this particular c (1)

a.different.perspect (817184) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212595)

No, I'm saying that a guy could unconsciously, repeatedly hijack a connection, and that the extent to which that process is automated complicates questions of guilt and ruins most analogies.

With this guy it looks like it was intentional, deliberate theft. But generally speaking, the "waltzes in through your open front door and takes the cookies" image is completely imprecise, as you were placed inside the house and handed the cookies. No analogy supports that accurately.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

Stuart Gibson (544632) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212544)

But the difference is that a computer requests access to the network and the piece of equipment you've put in place to maintain the connection essentially says "Go ahead, here's an IP address to use".

It's more akin to having a doorman who, when people come up and ask for access says "Go ahead, let me open the door for you". If you haven't told him to stop people, that's your lookout.

Stuart

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

a.different.perspect (817184) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212618)

It's true that the tresspassing part of the analogy is invalid. On the other hand, capitalizing on the generosity of the doorman to intentionally steal from inside the house is what the wireless hijacker is actually in trouble for. As I pointed out elsewhere, the intentions of the hijacker are really, really important in deciding their guilt in something that can easily be done by accident.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212547)

Well, if the house has neon sign over the door and when you ask may you come in, they say 'yes' and hand you shopping chart? I think this is the case with open wlan.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (4, Insightful)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212559)

>>So if you have your door open in summer, I'm welcome to walk into your house and help myself to some of the cookies that are on the kitchen table?

Bad analogy - that would involve tresspass; there is a physical boundary of someone else's property that implies private access.

A better analogy would be if those cookies were floating through the air, coming in MY window and out my door, and I happened to eat a few as they went by.

Although it may not reflect the law, I personally believe that unsecured wifi should be public domain. WEP (even 1-bit for god's sake, to show that the intention for it to be private) should be enabled by default on routers, and it should be blatantly clear that you're providing public access (with consent) if you turn it off.

MadCow.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

jaavaaguru (261551) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212548)

Rather like if a webserver is publicly accessible, then anyone can connect to it. If there's stuff you don't want people to see, then force people to authenticate.

I don't know why some people see wireless networks any differently from that.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (1)

cowstaker (883895) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212615)


Rather like if a webserver is publicly accessible, then anyone can connect to it. If there's stuff you don't want people to see, then force people to authenticate.

I don't know why some people see wireless networks any differently from that.


Wait a tick. If it is the owners fault for not securing their AP, then would it be the municipal councils fault if a park bench went missing because it wasn't cemented to the ground?

Be responsible for your actions, your basically saying that it's not the criminals fault for particpating in an unethical activity.

Re:How do u Hijack an OPEN network??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212621)

You don't have a publicly accessible webserver by default. To have one you must conciously take the action of setting one up. Your wireless network on the other hand is publicly accessible by default unless you take some kind of action to prevent it. That is why people like me see these things differently.

Jesus.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212421)

The drivers for most wireless cards just chuck you onto a wireless network the second you're in range - I haven't RTFA but I sure hope he was seriously abusing his neighbours connection, 'cause that is a serious punishment for a "oops I slipped" offence

Also.. FP?

honeypot... (3, Interesting)

torrents (827493) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212422)

we should all open up public aps, log the connections and send law enforcement large lists of mac addresses of 1337 h4x0rs...
 
that might cause them to reconsider how they enforce the law.

So basically .... (1)

Norfair (845108) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212561)

... you want to DDoS the FBI? Sounds good, count me in!

Saudi King Faud Dead (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212423)

Netcraft confirms it.

Re:Saudi King Faud Dead (-1, Offtopic)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212449)

Funniest. troll. EVAR.

If windows connects automatically... (0, Redundant)

Mhtsos (586325) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212429)

...shouldn't they fine Microsoft? Just a thought.

Justice (4, Informative)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212433)

``before Windows automagically connects to it and gets me arrested''

Fortunately, most courts still discriminate between intentionally and accidentally doing something. If you're connecting to someone else's wireless network from your car (which, I assume, means that you don't have any wireless network facilities of your own around), it's pretty hard to maintain that you did it by accident.

On the other hand, if my mom is found to use the neighbor's network to access the Internet, it will be pretty hard to maintain that she was doing so on purpose. All she knows is that computers can be used as glorified typewriters. GUIs are not for her, much less wireless network configurations.

Re:Justice (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212445)

Fortunately, most courts still discriminate between intentionally and accidentally doing something.

Such faith grasshopper. You must be young!

Re:Justice (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212535)

GUIs are not for her

Wow, she does everything at the command line? What's she using as her "typewriter" program, emacs? Cool mom. I have this image of a couple of soccer moms in a "vi vs emacs" throwdown!

Intentional doesn't mean criminal (5, Insightful)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212571)

"Fortunately, most courts still discriminate between intentionally and accidentally doing something. "

Except for one thing, you can't know if he neighbours INTENT was to share his open wireless connection for sharing. Thats the whole point of Open WiFi afterall, sharing. By doing this they're making Open WiFi illegal, because not only does your computer have to get permission to connect to the network (via the login) but now extra permission is needed too.

Let me put it another way. Suppose you have free open municiple wifi and Fred Bloggs open wifi, you computer has no way of telling which is the free Municiple open wifi and which is not so it connects to Fred Blogs's net, attempts to login and is given permission -> crime comitted. You had the intent to connect to an open network, but not the method to determine which network is permitted.

Or rather you did have the way, the login, but the court ignored that.

Typical... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212435)

before Windows automagically connects to it and gets me arrested!


Sigh. You know you're on Slashdot when anything bad, no matter how remote, gets blamed on Windows and/or Microsoft.

Re:Typical... (1)

The Slashdotted (665535) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212483)

Timothy, the best and brightest among us, admits to using XP on his laptop.

We should hope for that upfront honesty out of /.'s advertisers... like Roland Piquepaille.

Unsecure network ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212436)

It seems that the person that was dumb enough to leave his wireless unsecure should also be at fault. He/she has left himself and the ISP open to abuse.

Also the people/companies that leave in bugs & security holes are the ones at fault.

Re:Unsecure network ? (1, Insightful)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212467)

It's not the "dumb user" who left his wireless insecure who is at fault. He has just bought a product, plugged it in and expected it to work. Why not?

Re:Unsecure network ? (1)

Loonacy (459630) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212505)

So, he bought a product that allows computers to connect to his network wirelessly, and expects computers to not connect to his network wirelessly?

Re:Unsecure network ? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212577)

So someone can walk through my backyard because I leave my fence's gate open?

Re:Unsecure network ? (2, Informative)

twoshortplanks (124523) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212620)

Er, yes. Under UK law at least. It's not trespass unless they refuse to leave once you've told them to or they've ignored the sign that says "keep out".

I, for one, (1, Interesting)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212442)

as someone who has been stealing internet access for more than a year now, really don't see a problem with doing it.

The neighbour whose connection I'm leeching off of uses their connection for about ten to twenty minutes in the morning when they wake up and about an hour or so at night -- and never uses their connection to its full capacity.

It's being wasted -- why not use it?

Re:I, for one, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212475)

Because its theirs to waste and not yours? Heck - why not just ask nicely?

Re:I, for one, (1)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212510)

One could argue, sanely and logically, that since the Access Point is not secured, and therefore, I am allowed to start a transaction with it that the access point approves (I can't force it to give me access to anything, it has to allow me access), that it is impossible for my action to be illegal.

However, the courts, apparently, have let their brains take a holiday.

I wonder if they're in Bath or Brighton this year.

Re:I, for one, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212640)

One could argue, sanely and logically that the car you left running / bag you left on the bus / credit card you dropped / etc etc is not secure, and therefore I am allowed to start a transaction with it.

Re:I, for one, (4, Insightful)

malkavian (9512) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212476)

Hey, you use your car for maybe an hour each way to work. It's being wasted the rest of the day. Fair that I grab it without you knowing in between then?
Of course not. Anything you decide to do becomes their problem. And, well, it's just rude! If it's one of the low cap broadband connections, perhaps you're going to push them over their limit? Or several people using it will do that?
Still alright to cost them money?
All it takes is a nip round to your neighbour's place and say "Look, you've got a wireless point there and broadband.. Mind if I chuck you a bit of cash each month and piggyback on top of the link, 'cos I can't really afford it?". Many would say to just hop on anyway if it's not used, without you paying anything. That's certainly the arrangement I have with my neighbours that can't afford the link (now have 3 people on mine).
Nothing wrong with sharing a link, it's just good manners to ASK before taking things.

Re:I, for one, (1)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212501)

Due to where I live, and the company that feeds them broadband, I happen to know they don't have a cap.

Also, it's not the same class of thing as them 'borrowing' my car, since I'm not using it. If they were to use my car, they would not only have to use up my gasoline, but they would put wear and tear on it. Now, all of this is a moot point, since my car is currently broken, but I hope you see my point. They have to spend electricity to use their router anyway. I'm not increasing their overhead (and if I am, by no meaningful ammount). If they use my car, they are, however, causing me a financial burden. However, if they wanted to carpool to somewhere I was going, say, the Mall, then that would be acceptable since the ammount of wear and tear and gas used with two people in my Jeep does not increase significantly over the ammount of wear and tear and gas used with one person in it.

It's a matter of kind of thing, not of thing.

Got it?

Re:I, for one, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212513)

Because you are a thieving git?

Re:I, for one, (2, Insightful)

RicRoc (41406) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212515)

If you have an agreement with your neighbour allowing you to use their network, then of course you can use it -- otherwise, it's theft, and you can get into trouble if you are caught. Whether or not they are using their network is irrelevant, it's theirs to use or not to use, not yours.

Theft these days is so easy that it takes real moral strength just to not do it. I understand perfectly why some would choose not to exercise their moral muscles; it's just too hard.

Re:I, for one, (1)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212526)

Their wireless router is sent a request to allow a connection from my computer to itself. It accepts the request, and assigns me an IP address.

It can be configured to deny my request very easily. The wireless router accepts my request -- it gives me access. I do not take access from it without its consent. Since they have their wireless router configured, through design or ignorance, to allow this, this implies their consent to it.

Re:I, for one, (4, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212630)

Say you're using their connection to do some illegal stuff like black hat hacking or spam fraud and the IP gets traced back to your neighbors, then what?

Or simpler; a forum which you both happen to visit decides to ban the IP for your bad behaviour or a poll-system allows only one vote per IP.

The real problem is not using the bandwidth, it's the online identity theft through use of their IP.

And how about a VPN? Is it okay to access that too through the WiFi connection?

Re:I, for one, (2, Interesting)

spagetti_code (773137) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212637)

Well, if you come from NZ like I do, then you pay per megabyte.

Unsecure WLANs can be *real* expensive.

So what is the harm? (1)

luckynoone (775973) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212444)

So what is the harm of this guy using his neighbors wireless?

"reported to police by a neighbour concerned that he was acting suspiciously"

sounds like the guy is not the type to pay for internet anyways if he is willing to go to all that trouble.

Re:So what is the harm? (1)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212514)

He came to the attention of the police, and they discovered that he could be prosecuted for breaking a law. That's one more point in their favour in the crime statistics.

Why would they care whether he was doing any harm or not?

Accident? (4, Informative)

malkavian (9512) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212451)

Not really. Despite the BBC hedging it's bets, and putting the conspiracy angle on it a touch, The Register [theregister.co.uk] has a clearer account of what happened.
Basically the bloke was engaged in Wardriving, and deliberately hooked into the wireless network.
It'll certainly be murky waters when windows automatically selects the average joe's router instead of their own, but with many routers at least asking people to put better security on wireless points, this should start becoming less frequent.
From all accounts, he was caught tapping away on his laptop, moved away when police watched, then came right back to the same point again. At which point he was investigated as he looked a little 'suspicious'.
Wardrivers remember! Just because you're invisible in the network, it doesn't make you invisible to the local copper walking on the street, or the local neighbourhood watch!

Re:Accident? (1)

hutchike (837402) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212491)

I was in an NHS hospital (UK) for 2 months. Given the choice of hijacking their open wireless network to read /. or paying 10p per minute for a "Patient Line" dial-up connection, I chose the former.

Unfortunately I wasn't so invisible and they found my laptop within a day or two. I say, if it's there and it's open then why not use it? We're talking about data here - not property.

Any tips on how I can better hide my ID on the net?

Re:Accident? (3, Informative)

malkavian (9512) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212552)

Actually, considering I work in an NHS hospital, there are very good reason why you don't use their open wireless, and you tell 'em FAST it's there.
Patient records. If you're a nice guy, you won't go looking around. Not everyone is that nice. Ever thought what happens when you delete someone's allergy records when they head to surgery?
We have wireless points here, and regularly go sniffing for open access points run by departments. When we find them, we chastise the owners, and then secure the points.
Or, perhaps, you're happy sharing your medical history with the world. If so, that's fine. Not everybody is.
Incidentally, I'm very suspicious of your claim to read /. from the internal network via an open wireless access point. Simply because the proxies need authentication (it's part of NHSNet's rules). If you don't have the domain account configured for internet access.. Then you're internal only. And you really shouldn't be there.

Re:Accident? (4, Insightful)

HiroProtagonist (56728) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212608)

And why isn't it secured again?

If a hospital network isn't secured, IMO it is GROSS negligence on the part of the IT staff of the hospital.

Re:Accident? (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212624)

Amen to that. Which is why we keep a close eye on what gets put in (departments are known to cut around IT with installing things they believe they need). I was just wondering which hospital this open port was discovered at.

Re:Accident? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212532)

Does it matter? If it behaves like a public hotspot, it is one. The access point owner communicates on public frequencies, I do the same. I have no control over his access point. Whether my network card is allowed to associate with his access point, whether my computer gets an IP address, whether my browser can connect to the internet through his access point, that's all under HIS control, not mine.

He's not in his home, he's on the public airwaves. There is an established protocol for open access points and his access point behaves exactly according to that protocol. It's his responsibility to clearly state his intentions in the public space if he doesn't want to be misunderstood. You learn how to safely use a car before you use it on public roads. Why do people think it's ok to use the ISM bands without so much as a thought about what it is they're doing?

Re:Accident? (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212545)

WTF... the BBC is being sensationalist, and The Register is being factual?!? I'm going back to bed.

DHCP server gave him permission! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212459)

Would have been more interesting if the guy had had a clued up a lawyer.

Seeing as these people's DHCP server gave him an IP address, doesn't that count as permission? I guess the prosecutors might have thought so too which is why the crime is using his airspace not his computer. Which is even more ridiculous, their network came into his car not the other way round.

This has alarming civil liberties implications. But I guess is mainly down to cluelessness and incompetence on the part of the judge as these things usually are.

Implication that he accessed a computer (1)

l-ascorbic (200822) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212461)

From TFA:
Gaining unauthorised access to a computer is an offence covered by the Computer Misuse Act. In Straszkiewcz's case, he was prosecuted under the Communications Act and found guilty of dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service.

"I guess, and it is a guess, that they couldn't prove he accessed the actual computer and that is why they used another legal avenue," said Mr Janes.

Perhaps because it's unlikely that he did access the computer? Why would he need to, if he's just leeching the bandwidth?

Re:Implication that he accessed a computer (1)

Linus Torvaalds (876626) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212569)

Gaining unauthorised access to a computer is an offence covered by the Computer Misuse Act.

It is. But what about this is unauthorised? He didn't break any encryption or crack any passwords, did he?

If the issue is that he wasn't explicitly granted access, then surely visiting websites makes you just as guilty - you initiate the connection, not the server, and no special privileges are granted beforehand.

Yeah, maybe there's implied permission by running an unsecured web server on a standard port. But if that's the case, then surely there's an implied permission by running an unsecured hotspot on standard frequencies.

Impossible to help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212463)

I've no doubt that when this happens it's mainly ignorance, but the trouble is there is no way of pinpointing where the router is, so no way of politely helping a neighbour. In my case: a router called "netgear" - a default of course - and a load of terraced houese. Short of walking round with my laptop and netstumbler, there is no way to help.

'Is reporting'? (1, Troll)

jginspace (678908) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212464)

This 'news' is from last Thursday for Christ's sake...

Re:'Is reporting'? (1)

geodescent (871514) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212516)

Not quite. That guy was cloned for the purpose of duplicate action, much like Slashdot

So what does this accomplish? (1)

mendaliv (898932) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212466)

While it might get rid of bozos who go and mess with unsecured wireless routers, I don't think this sort of action does anything but create a false sense of security.

Fines and probation won't magically make everyone's wireless network secure. The only reason this guy was caught was because he was acting suspiciously, just like that guy in the US.

If I'll ever invent breakthrough technology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212471)

... I'm going to make a test of technical aptitude a requirement before anyone is allowed to use it, and then nobody can claim that they need to be protected by law instead of protecting themselves by turning on encryption. Fucking idiots keep ruining it for the people who care about technology...

The law? (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212479)

Well to be fair this has always been technically illegal. If you leave your windows or your Windows open (heh), it doesn't make it legal for someone to go inside. I don't agree with it though, that's the law. I think there should have at least been a flag in the protocol to way 'this is a private network' and hardware should default it on - that way even if its totally open you still know where you stand legally. I also think more should have been done to clear up the legality of who was responsible for what goes on their network, there's no way you should be held liable for what someone else does on your connection - otherwise no-one would have access points, not even Starbucks!

Re:The law? (1)

DenDave (700621) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212538)

This is interesting as this may vary per jurisdiction. If you think about it, every attempt to log into my web server via ssh goes unpunished, this is however, using my network without permission. This is to my knowledge not punishable under current local laws unless the perp has actually succeded in accessing the system. Mere use of the network does not get the authorities wound up at all.

By analogy you should think then that merely using an unprotected wifi without accessing the actual computers would fall under the same regime?

Does anyone have a decent lowdown on these issues?

Re:The law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212553)

The FCC would say otherwise.
If you're beaming it through the air, it's free game for anyone who can do something with it.

Our bodies, our signal (1)

GregBryant (868930) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212489)

Personally, I feel I have rights to any radio waves traveling through my body.

Idiot (3, Insightful)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212492)

"Some people might argue that taking a joy-ride in someone else's car is not an offence either"

Wrong. It's more like going up a private road which isn't marked as a private road, and which you have contacted Google to tell them to put it on their maps. Don't want people to go driving up your private road? Put some signs up or a gate.

It's very simple - put WEP or WPA on. To be honest, if someone goes through your WEP, then that counts as a deliberate break-in in my book. If you don't have it no, don't complain when people go using it.

am i next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212498)

What a coincident, i am writing this using my neighbour's wireless network without their knowledge. ;)

 

So could this guy have gone to jail for a year? (1)

putko (753330) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212502)

Is that 12 months probation? E.g. if he screws up, can they throw him in the slammer? That'll teach him!

I can't imagine how he feels; if he screws up again, he's going to get traded aroud on the block for cigarettes. That's just not funny.

Re:So could this guy have gone to jail for a year? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212607)

Luckily, in British prisons, male rape is extremely rare, so that wont happen. We believe in rehabilitation rather than straight punishment, so our method of penalisation is a little different to the 'prisons ruled by inmates' method of the US. It doesnt always work mind you.

King Fahd is dead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212508)

Long live Amerika, Koka Kola and Vonderbra!

Did you read this bit.... (1)

C0d1ngM0nk3y (851310) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212512)

"the person installing the network, be they a home user or a business, has ultimate responsibility for any criminal activity that takes place on that network," ?

WTF? If someone sneaks into my garden and starts dealing crack does that meen I'm responsible for that crime too? I meen, it was on my property after all.

Enlgish law is f***ed up. Someone should point these dumb-asses at a book about computers which they should read before passing laws like this.

If you're going to fine or jail anyone for having an insecure router it should be the company thats still selling WEP-only routers even though they've been proven to be insecure:

http://securityfocus.com/infocus/1814 [securityfocus.com] ..that gets fined or has it's CEO jailed.

Where are the laws to protect the consumer from purchasing insecure WEP routers? Where's the consumer protection law making it illegal to sell someone an insecure communication device? Nowhere. Typical!

I wonder how many people have actually gone to jail over this? Wouldn't this be a really easy way to set someone up that you didn't like? Hack their WEP, browse to a kiddy pr0n site on their connection and then tip off the police!

How many people secure their networks anyway? (2, Informative)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212519)

How many people secure their wireless networks anyway? Well, from my own personal experience.. not a lot.

While I'm at home, I can see just one wireless network.. mine. But step outside and I can see eight other ones, only one of which is secured. About half are set to the default network name (so I guess default IP addresses and passwords), all of them except mine use the same channel. And some of them stupidly have the owner's names for the network (stupid.. because a burglar could use that to find out who had kit worth nicking).

So are these people being stupid or what? Errr well.. no, they're just being normal people who expect the kit to work out of the box. But really, who many non-geeks understand WEP, SSIDs, MAC addresses and all the other jargon?

The probably is made worse by "leakage". If you are inside then you'll rarely pick up someone else's wireless connection.. but these things leak out all over the place when you go outside. The perception of the typical user then is that if they can't see someone else's network from inside, then nobody else can see theirs. Alas, this isn't the case.

I think the bottom line is that WiFi is incredibly dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. Most products do work straight out of the box, but crucially they are not secure out of the box. Even Microsoft eventually learned that lesson with its operating systems - early versions of XP didn't even have the firewall enabled and were wide open to attack.

In this particular case the issue of intent is important. Given the proliferation of insecure networks, it must be trivially easy to accidentally connect to some else's wireless point. How you can prove intent is more difficult though.

These Are Such Stupid Anologies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13212540)

Your "Door" isn't open on your private property. Your "private" information is flowing out into the street. The PUBLIC street. So if you dont want your "private" data to be exposed to the "public" then dont broadcast it out where anyone can read it. Its more like leaving your hi-fi plugged in and out in the middle of the street, and someone comes by and listens to it, and then you get mad at them for doing it. Its like dressing like a slut then being offended when people stare at you in public places.

So What (1)

Digital Warfare (746982) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212550)

I can connect to some guys internet in my street.
He doesn't have it WEP enabled or any form of security at all, not even a password
So how is it my fault if I was to connect to it ? Surely I could claim accident as the guy hasn't a clue how to setup such a device

now I'm scared (1)

jotux (660112) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212576)

Now when I see those little LCDs in the headrests of cars in front of me playing movies, I'm afraid if I look at them I'm stealing the movie from driver of that car. And if I happen to be behind that person playing other movies a few times a month(they live close, or drive similar roads) I'm conspiring to steal thier video!

really though. When he signs on, the instant the router assigns him an IP the network has asked him on to the network. Since when is an unencrypted signal entering your private space(the guy was in his vehicle, on what I'm assuming was a public road) not yours to use?

wireless hacking (1)

chrisranjana.com (630682) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212587)

Theft is theft, wireless or otherwise

"hijacked" connections?! (2)

tnmc (446963) | more than 9 years ago | (#13212604)

Note the inflation of rhetoric...now it's "hijacking" if some bozo's AP *gives* you an IP address over DHCP...!!
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