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Wi-Fi Piggybacking Widespread

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the five-finger-discounts dept.

Wireless Networking 459

BaCa sent in this article about stealing network access that opens, "Sophos has revealed new research into the use of other people's Wi-Fi networks to piggyback onto the internet without payment. The research shows that 54 percent of computer users have admitted breaking the law, by using someone else's wireless internet access without permission." Of course, online polls being what they are, the results are hardly a plank for a full investigation, but a good share of the answerers did 'fess up to it as well.

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I agree its wrong (4, Interesting)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373053)

but how is it illegal?

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

Suddenly_Dead (656421) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373095)

Since the law said it was, and judges set up precedence backing up that interpretation of the law.

Re:I agree its wrong (-1, Flamebait)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373161)

Since the law said it was, and judges set up precedence backing up that interpretation of the law.

Do you want to link to this 'law' and link to the case where that precedent was set?

Personally, I think you're full of shit. Every time I've seen someone done for 'stealing' wifi, they're charged under a different law - copyright infringemnent or similar.

Re:I agree its wrong (3, Informative)

Eyah....TIMMY (642050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373251)

Here it is for California:
http://www.internetlibrary.com/statuteitem.cfm?Num=12/ [internetlibrary.com]

"Access" means to gain entry to, instruct, or communicate with the logical, arithmetical, or memory function resources of a computer, computer system, or computer network.

(7) Knowingly and without permission accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network.

Re:I agree its wrong (4, Insightful)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373313)

"Access" means to gain entry to, instruct, or communicate with the logical, arithmetical, or memory function resources of a computer, computer system, or computer network. (7) Knowingly and without permission accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network.

By that definition, my operating system is in violation of the law whenever it scans for an available network and presents it to me for connection.

Re:I agree its wrong (4, Insightful)

doshell (757915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373341)

"Access" means to gain entry to, instruct, or communicate with the logical, arithmetical, or memory function resources of a computer, computer system, or computer network.

(7) Knowingly and without permission accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network.

So every time you want to visit a web site, you write a letter or call up the webmaster to ask for permission?

If by setting up a Web server I'm tacitly permitting inbound traffic, then surely setting up an unprotected wifi access point is the same, as far as the law is concerned?

(I'm not saying Wifi piggybacking is or should be legal, just pointing out that the law you mention as it is is quite vague and open to interpretation.)

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

Eyah....TIMMY (642050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373409)

It sure is. That's why you need a judge to interpret it. I mean when you setup a site on the internet with no auth, you would think it's fair game. So you *could* be against the law but there really needs to be a court case on it.
The Patriot acts make teh law even more vague and give authorities even more power what they define as illegal.

Re:I agree its wrong (2, Insightful)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373573)

If by setting up a Web server I'm tacitly permitting inbound traffic, then surely setting up an unprotected wifi access point is the same

Only if you name your access point "FREE WIFI", or by some other means convey that it is free, since a website is implied to be public by default, and an access point is implied to be private by default, even if there isn't a password.

This is not the same thing as piracy. Stealing WiFi REALLY IS stealing, because you are depriving somebody of the bandwidth they are paying for when you use it without permission. That you think anything unknowingly left unprotected is fair to steal illustrates your lax morals. Would you steal somebody's car if they left it unprotected without knowing it? Well then why would you steal somebody's wifi if they left it unprotected without knowing it?

Re:I agree its wrong (3, Insightful)

phoenix_rizzen (256998) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373631)

Why would putting a server up on port 80 be considered public anymore than putting up a wireless access point? I don't see how having a web server is "implied public". Just because I put it there doesn't mean I want everyone to access it. That's a poor example to use.

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373689)

Because content on the internet is fair game, and free to access.

Re:I agree its wrong (2)

ricree (969643) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373753)

Just like an unsecured wifi network.

Re:I agree its wrong (5, Insightful)

tkw954 (709413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373367)

Knowingly and without permission accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network.

I would say that the beacon and authentication process would communicate that permission is granted:

Access Point Hey everyone, I'm open for business!

My Adapter Can I have permission to join your network?

Access Point Sure! Here's an IP!

Re:I agree its wrong (4, Insightful)

nxtw (866177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373417)

Thing is, though, 802.11a/b/g/n clients usually "associate" with an access point. This is after the client receives a "beacon" from the access point, basically advertising its existence.

So, the access point tells the area that it's broadcasting, and the client sends an association request, and the access point associates with the client. Assuming that that association was gained by the client in a non-malicious manner (no MAC spoofing, no WEP cracking, etc,) it sounds a lot like the system was configured to give any client permission automatically.

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

Suddenly_Dead (656421) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373257)

You know, I agree with you. Stfu me.

Although, that said, there have been arrests in various countries based, not on copyright infringement, but on communications or computer-related laws. Google search brings a few results up. Nothing that's gone through the court that I can see though. I could have sworn that I read something, but I may have just been suffering from temporary delirium.

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

Eyah....TIMMY (642050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373299)

I don't really a agree with the law but it's the law! I mean if you leave you car door open with the keys in the ignition, people might get into it. Duh. Yeah it's illegal but what was done to protect it?
The worse I saw was in the Patriot act, the EFF pointed out any access to a network that's not yours and which causes more than $5000 worth of damages (including hiring someone to investigate your access) was illegal.

Re:I agree its wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373549)

Think what you want, but the laws, while varied, do exist. This was covered before on /. [slashdot.org] but as usual here people only believe what suits their own interests and nothing of reality.

Re:I agree its wrong (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373189)

I don't agree that it is necessarily wrong, as long as it doesn't disrupt the service of the person who owns the Internet connection. What harm is done by me piggybacking on a neighbor's wifi connection at 2AM while they sleep, to check some email? As long as I don't mask crimes by it or interrupt the neighbor's ability to use their equipment, I fail to see what harm is done, and therefore, what is wrong with it.

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

sound+vision (884283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373283)

What's wrong with it is that you are using bandwidth they paid for, without their permission. Granted, simply checking e-mail isn't likely to move enough bytes to put anyone over their bandwidth limit. But if you're downloading large files or anything, that's clearly in the wrong.

Re:I agree its wrong (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373537)

Don't make me make a car analogy.

I actually agree with you.. mind you, I also believe squatting laws in the UK are awesome [insomnia.org] .

Re:I agree its wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373203)

Why is it wrong? I leave mine open in hope that others find it useful.

Re:I agree its wrong (4, Insightful)

dwillden (521345) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373219)

The survey site and article are targeted at folks in the UK, where the legality of using an open wi-fi spot isn't as open as here in the US. Here, the FCC has said that if there is no attempt to lock it down, it's free game. There the rules are different. Thus the article is able to claim the act is illegal.

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373431)

Is thought still legal over there in the UK? I mean gosh, they already go around with TV scanners to make sure you're paying your TV tax. They might as well make sure you're paying for your internet too like a good UK citizen.

Re:I agree its wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373603)

Correction:

In the UK, you are not a citizen. You are a subject, where the burden of proof in criminal cases to be found innocent is on the defendant, as opposed to the US system of reasonable. Even if you win, their magistrates can appeal, leaving you a guest of a gaol for a long time.

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373651)

>Here, the FCC has said that if there is no attempt to lock it down, it's free game.

I hadn't heard about this: do you have a reference I can point to if anyone asks?

It is illegal in the UK (3, Informative)

cyriustek (851451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373321)

Here are a few occasions instructing that using a wireless connection without payment, or without permission is illegal:

"Two people have been arrested in the UK for using another person's wireless internet access without permission. Neither was charged but both were cautioned for dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment." http://www.out-law.com/page-7969 [out-law.com]

Another according to BBC NEWS where he was arrested for "Dishonestly obtaining free internet access is an offence under the Communications Act 2003 and a potential breach of the Computer Misuse Act." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/6958429.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:It is illegal in the UK (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373435)

Here are a few occasions instructing that using a wireless connection without payment, or without permission is illegal

These don't prove the illegality of anything. Both cases are of peopel charged. No mention of any convictions. And even if they were convicted, were they plea bargains in which case the law is never tested? The few cases I've heard of seem to be really "loitering" that was being punished, the cops or prosecutors added in the "unauthorised access" charge to beef up the charges.

Re:It is illegal in the UK (1)

cyriustek (851451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373469)

When I read the law, it seems pretty clear to me...

Communications Act 2003, section 125

Dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services

(1) A person who-

(a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communications service, and
(b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service,

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

technicalandsocial (940581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373357)

Instead of using commercial firmware in our APs, let's either start using mesh friendly firmware, or even hardware solutions like the http://meraki.com/ [meraki.com] units, and create massive mesh networks on our own. Please, use any of the APs in my house, and link your APs to mine.

Re:I agree its wrong (2, Informative)

yelvington (8169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373363)

It's not necessarily wrong. Sophos is assuming, without reason, that an open access point isn't intended to be used. I would argue the opposite. Open access means "use me."

Earlier this week at the Columbus, Ohio, airport, I appreciated not having to click through pages of legal disclaimers, threats, et cetera, to get to the Internet on the unsecured wifi access point that I found when sitting an airport waiting area. I was able to connect and quickly grab my email without having to mess around with a web browser.

Am I a criminal for using the open wifi connection? Or was I merely using a publicly accessible wifi connection? The latter, judging from the posters all over the airport urging me to use the service.

I had the same experience at the Columbia, South Carolina, airport. Free access, fast connections, no legal clickthrough junk. (Cheers to both airports for not trying to nick me for $8 an hour.)

An open, unsecured wifi access point should be considered an invitation to public use. And inviting free public use should never be outlawed.

Re:I agree its wrong (3, Insightful)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373611)

While I was away, my parents decided to get WiFi, without telling me until I returned. I looked at the configuration and they did not put a password on it. When I asked them about this, they said they didn't know about adding a password. Did they intend to make their internet available to everybody? NO. They just didn't know to protect it. An access point is open by default, so by your logic, all new access points are free to use until they're passworded, even if their owner doesn't know to add a password.

Re:I agree its wrong (2, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373511)

It's hardly even 'wrong' if someone sets up their network openly. In fact I'd say if there is blame anywhere these days it's on the part of the person making their network open - somehow Windows decided to piggyback onto one of my neighbour's newly setup and unsecured wifi network. My internet access was really slow so I decided to reconnect the router, went to my bookmark for checking the internet connection status, wondered why the admin password had been reset to 'password', then realised that I was actually not connected to my own router.. *sigh*

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373639)

I think it is high time that people came out of the closet and admitted to all that backdooring.. err.. 'piggy-backing'. Then we can all accept that it's normal and get on with life.

Re:I agree its wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373641)

Some ASSHAT in your local government or state government decided that it's illegal.

In reality it's a benefit to all of mankind, but it doesnt make people filthy rich, so it must be deemed illegal.

Re:I agree its wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373717)

This should fix the piggy-back thing:
http://www.ex-parrot.com/pete/upside-down-ternet.html [ex-parrot.com]

Re:I agree its wrong (1)

boscosmith (883836) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373793)

Why is it wrong exactly? Imagine you have a field. If I cut through it to save myself walking around it, I haven't damaged you or your property. Now if I build a road through your field to save myself time, that's wrong, but simply using someone else's property in a non-destructive way, I don't see the problem. So no high-bandwidth or criminal usage of my network, but for innocent email checking or browsing and chatting, come one come all (I have a fonero (FON.com)). I think notions of private property have gotten out of hand, and I think that if we were talking about DMCA stuff then everyone would be on my side. But this is somehow different, I don't see it. Fair use.

54 percent??!? (4, Funny)

thermopile (571680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373061)

Oh, come on .. I can't believe it's not more like 90 or 95 percent. In fact, I'm typing this while "borrowing" my neighbor's linksys network. The admi-- $$%110113944 NO CARRIER

Re:54 percent??!? (4, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373269)

You mean like her? Mrs. Roberts [xkcd.com]

Re:54 percent??!? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373561)

I'm borrowing my neighbor's wireless network right now A VPN? How cute! too. Seems to be working just And stop trying to SSH! fine. Hmmm... I smell cookies...

Stealing? Or Sharing? (3, Insightful)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373065)

What about people who keep their access points open and connect to other people's access points when they're away? I'd imagine that if somebody purposefully leaves their AP open that it wouldn't be stealing. The trouble is knowing if somebody intentionally has an unsecured WAP or if the person just never knew/bothered to secure it.

Re:Stealing? Or Sharing? (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373121)

Somehow, "checking my email" is conflated with "stealing." I don't see it.

Re:Stealing? Or Sharing? (4, Interesting)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373221)

Seriously. I leave mine open. If I see someone abusing the privilege I'll kick them off, but if someone wants to check google maps real quick then I'm happy to have been of help. There's been a large number of situations in my own past where an open network was of immense help, and I like the idea of being able to return the favor in some sense. I really hate the idea that the default way we're supposed to approach anyone is under the assumption that they're both too stupid to secure their connections, and too selfish to want anything but that.

Re:Stealing? Or Sharing? (2, Informative)

Luke the Obscure (651951) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373259)

We set our SSID to "Open WIFI" so everyone knows we're sharing on purpose with the hopes that guests will do the same.

Re:Stealing? Or Sharing? (1)

Tilzs (959354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373581)

So if someones house is open then it's ok to go in and check it out and use the bed? If someones storage shed is unlocked then its ok to use their mower? Really if you want to use something that belongs to someone else or someone else is paying for then just go ask them. If you can't at least do that at worst you are a criminal and at best a coward.

Encryption (4, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373075)

Considering many systems are configured to latch on to the strongest unprotected wifi signal they see, I've piggy-backed several times without intent.

If you can't be bothered to set up even 40-bit WEP, then you have nothing to complain about. Hell, there are five signals that I can see from my house! Your RF is in my space! I should charge rent.

Re:Encryption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373379)

Your RF is in my space! I should charge rent.
If you are in the USA, you can't charge rent because the government has already lease the RF space out and gave the money to themselves.

Re:Encryption (4, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373381)

I was helping out someone over the phone at a client's remote office. He'd just come back from overseas and could connect to the wireless network and access the internet but couldn't connect to any of the internal systems. After checking all the obvious things I established a remote control session to his laptop and started looking around. The IP address of the wireless interface was nothing like what it should have been. I then connected to the Access point he was using and found that it was set up nothing like it should have been and DHCP was enabled. Aha! I thought. The Access point has been reset to factory defaults. I threw a new config at it and rebooted it, but things still weren't working right.

Eventually, I figured out that while he was away, someone in a neighboring office must have set up an access point with the same SSID (NETGEAR - so the chances of it happening were pretty high!) and his laptop decided to connect to that instead. And i'd just reconfigured it with a fairly high level of security. Oops.

Oh well... maybe next time their neighbor will put security on their access point!

Re:Encryption (1)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373635)

Does that mean if people connect to a honeypot WAP, get their credentials sniffed, personal information compromised and their system exploited the owner of the honeypot could sue them too?

I'm in the wrong business...

War driving by any other name.... (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373083)

Seriously, it wasn't that long ago that this type of thing was a widespread geek pastime. I remember popping an antenna on the hood of the car and driving through town sniffing packets and laughing at those who were completely unencrypted.

Re:War driving by any other name.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373145)

Nothing illegal with that, so long as you don't connect.

Re:War driving by any other name.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373509)

Sounds like an awesome Friday night man.

Is this really breaking the law? (5, Insightful)

compumike (454538) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373097)

The article asserts that logging onto someone's AP without their permission is "breaking the law", but is that really clear? Do I have to explicitly ask for permission before I walk into a restaurant? Of course not -- there's a reasonable expectation that there are no barriers to my entry, so I'm allowed (even invited) in. But, while I think physical analogies to computer situations can be very misleading, in the real world entry becomes illegal when you've had to defeat some protection mechanism (a lock) to get in.

So, to summarize: I feel like cracking someone's WEP key to get on their net is pretty damn illegal. But I don't think hopping onto an open net is unsecured. In fact, the fact that it's open may be interpreted as a sign that the owner intends to allow open access!

--
Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]

Re:Is this really breaking the law? (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373237)

I kept my wireless router open for several months. I checked the DHCP log lately and had several users connected. I only encrypted it because I started experiencing problems connecting from my wired towers, and I had to ensure that it wasn't someone hacking me.

Even after locking it down, I had problems and ended up replacing the old Linksys with a newer model I had sitting around. The new one is locked down right now just to establish that it is working, and soon I will open it up.

Coincidentally, I have an older laptop that I used a wireless-B card with, and I never saw any other access points from within my apartment. Recently I picked up a wireless-G card for it and saw about 5 access points after installation. Some were encrypted, the others weren't. So right now the guys that had been piggybacking on my connection are on someone else's, maybe even their own. Who's to say that is illegal. I don't consider it illegal, and I have participated in both sides of the activity.

Just don't saturate the bandwidth, or use so much that a guy on a tiered plan pays extra for your activity. "Practice responsible piggy-backing. And protect yourself from viruses."

Re:Is this really breaking the law? (1)

japhering (564929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373241)

So, to summarize: I feel like cracking someone's WEP key to get on their net is pretty damn illegal. But I don't think hopping onto an open net is unsecured. In fact, the fact that it's open may be interpreted as a sign that the owner intends to allow open access!


Problem is most countries have passed laws, usually under the guise of fighting terrorism that explicitly state that connecting to ANY wap without express premission is illegal. So even if your neighbor intentionally leaves his wap open for the express purpose of sharing, you are still in violation of the law. Now, having said that.. the problem becomes what is considered express permission?

A wap with factory settings.. probably not. A wap with a ESSID of "Permission granted to Everyone" .. maybe. A document, signed by owner and notorized .. your safe.

Re:Is this really breaking the law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373525)


Problem is most countries have passed laws, usually under the guise of fighting terrorism that explicitly state that connecting to ANY wap without express premission is illegal.
In Germany, the terrible new data retention act would make even purposely offering free wifi illegal unless you have some sort of log that lists who had access at what time (not sure about *what exactly* would need to be stored, but this is analogous to forcing anonymizing services such as Tor or JAP servers to keep connection data). Source (in German): Comments in the recently passed draft, p. 174: http://www.bmj.bund.de/files/-/2047/RegE%20TK%DC.pdf [bmj.bund.de]

Re:Is this really breaking the law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373267)

I don't know for sure about the wireless world, but your understanding of the physical world, at least, is just wrong--anyone can get to my backyard without "defeating" any sort of mechanism at all. It's still trespassing. Leaving your front door unlocked or garage door open might rule out "breaking and entering", but it is not the same as an invitation.

That being said, I set up a wireless network for a relative once. When it went down and their computer automatically grabbed one of the three unencrypted networks in the building, they spent three weeks using it before I noticed while I was helping them with something else. If something so easy to do is in fact illegal, the penalties should be nearly non-existent (at least absent intent.)

Re:Is this really breaking the law? (2, Informative)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373351)


Your analogy is a tad bit flawed.

If someone's car is parked on the street (public property), not locked, with the keys in the ignition ... do you have the right to take it or use it? Of course not. You'd be arrested for grand theft auto, even though the person did not take any steps to secure the vehicle .

An unsecured WAP is much like the above car, you're still using something that doesn't belong to you without permission. You aren't paying for the internet connection, you didn't buy the WAP.

- Roach

Re:Is this really breaking the law? (2, Informative)

debest (471937) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373657)

An unsecured WAP is much like the above car, you're still using something that doesn't belong to you without permission. You aren't paying for the internet connection, you didn't buy the WAP.

I disagree. An unsecured WAP (with SSID broadcast enabled) is actually advertising that it is open for use. If you ask for permission to connect, its DHCP server grants you permission to do so. Hey, the WAP's owner configured it that way, why should we second-guess intent? Hell, most people's laptops don't even ask their user: they just connect automatically to the strongest signal they can find. Who's responsible then?

To extend your car example,

An unsecured WAP is much like above car, except that the car has a sign on it stating that the car is available for anyone to drive, anytime they wish. True, you didn't pay, but permission is granted to take it anyway.

Re:Is this really breaking the law? (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373775)

Well, Its probably more like someone who bought a car that was on display at the dealer and had a "Try Me" Advertisement sign that the owner never took out, in which case its more confusiong a situation...

Car analogies really suck.

Re:Is this really breaking the law? (2, Interesting)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373743)

now imagine if a city has 5,000 unlocked cars (with keys in the ignition) that have a cost to their owners of about $1/day. And the cars don't just sit there passively, if one is within 500 feet of you it pops on your OWN LIST OF YOUR OWN CARS helpfully asking if you'd like to use it. And if you do use it, the actual owner of the car can still use it too plus he can kick you out any time if he wants. and in fairness you might have a car that you let everyone else use too.

this isn't theft, it's the first functioning commons.

MP3s are a gateway item (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373109)

You start by just stealing that one song. Then another, then another. Pretty soon your stealing movies, games, operating systems. Now you move up to what's known as speedballing - stealing songs using someone elses wifi. You try to hide your addiction by using proxies, but you can't hide from your own thoughts. Sooner or later, you'll be stealing large chunks of the internet. And one day - one day - you'll be found dead in alley clutching your hacked iPhone and box of sim chips. The police probably won't even investigate your death.

Re:MP3s are a gateway item (1)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373545)

The police probably won't even investigate your death.

Maybe not, but I'm sure the RIAA would be interesting in suing your family.


Dear Grieving Parent,

Please accept our condolences for the unfortunate death of your son. Attached to this letter

is a fine for breach of copyright of that songs he illegally pirated over the course of his short tragic life

we hope you will pay this fee promptly otherwise we will be forced to take further action, either in court

or procuring your next born child.

Once again we wish to express our deep regret at your son passing and we hope to see some bank soon.


Insincerely


Some RIAA asshat

Like being hit by a truck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373601)

And another life goes down the tubes.

Classic scenario - visiting the parents (4, Insightful)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373117)

When you have an ornery parent...that REFUSES to get broadband...even if he's paying MORE for dialup through earthlink...you get desperate when you're visiting. Especially when two or three neighbors are running unsecured WiFi.

I think it should be legal unless you're cracking someone's WEP or WPA to get in.

Re:Classic scenario - visiting the parents (1)

FirstNoel (113932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373167)

amen to that...

That's for sure! (1)

Z80xxc! (1111479) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373289)

I definitely agree; Mod parent up. We have dial-up. My neighbors have broadband with an unsecured WiFi AP. They don't say don't come in, in fact, my computer asks their router "May I come in?" and their router always says, "Sure! Here's your IP address." and then I'm connected. I highly doubt they notice or care - I don't download big files,* I don't do illegal stuff, I don't browse porn, etc. Why do I say they don't notice? Well, let's just say that in a Virtual Machine connected to the network and a member of the MSHOME workgroup can access all their shared docs, and their printers. I don't think this person knows much about the security.
*Except for software updates that happen automatically

That said, it's possible that I'm misinterpreting it all. Maybe I won't even finish this post before the signa

Re:Classic scenario - visiting the parents (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373645)

When you have an ornery parent...that REFUSES to get broadband...even if he's paying MORE for dialup through earthlink...you get desperate when you're visiting. Especially when two or three neighbors are running unsecured WiFi.

I think it should be legal unless you're cracking someone's WEP or WPA to get in.


I basically agree, but I do think that the threshold for doing something wrong is a bit before cracking an encryption key. IMHO, changing a MAC to get around MAC filtering, or logging onto an AP named "Please Don't Use!!" are both over the line. Requiring WEP in order for somebody to "shoo the kids off their lawn" means that you can't have any way to get people not to use your network if you have shitty old equipment that doesn't work properly with your new AP. (grumble, grumble...)

But, yeah, if the Network operator has done absolutely nothing to indicate that a network is private, and my computer automatically says "Hello, can I join you and get an IP" and the AP says "Sure, here is all the information you need to be a member of this network and access the Internet!" then I consider it perfectly moral to use the network. How the hell else do you make it any more open when you do want people to be allowed to use it freely?!

I don't see why this is a problem (2, Interesting)

mcsqueak (1043736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373135)

I fail to understand why this is illegal. I know that there is the argument that "you wouldn't go into their house if it the door was open and steal something!". Well no, I wouldn't. However, this being a technology issue (and a fairly recent one at that) I think it needs to be held to a different standard.

If you fail to secure your network that tells me you don't care if people access it, and I think you should be allowed to share your access if you feel like it. I'm no computer genius... I couldn't get Ubuntu to run on my laptop (I can't believe I just admitted that on Slashdot, please don't stone me), but I was able to secure down my network just fine without any problems at all.

Now, if you do something illegal WHILE accessing someones network, then yes you should be held accountable. But just accessing an open network to browse the news or check emails should be a non-issue. Don't we have drunk drivers and murderers and such to deal with instead?

Re:I don't see why this is a problem (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373215)

Basically, it boils down to the fact that some people know how to use the law better than they know how to fill in the "password" box... and there are enough frightened, unknowledgable, and indifferent people to back them up. It might not be right, it might even be destructive, but unfortunately, it's the law in an increasing number of places. The people have spoken, and the people don't know how to configure their router.

Illegal? (1)

orionop (1139819) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373157)

If using unsecured wifi without permission is illegal, then the law is completely unenforceable. In modern residential areas it is not uncommon to be able to access around 10 connections, many of which are unsecured. Regular people do not care which access point they are connected to. Computers will usually pick the strongest unsecured signal (barring that the computer in question is not defaulted to the owner's wifi) making many homeowners in neighborhoods accidentally break the law. Laws like this need to be better examined before the are enacted.

mod Do3n (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373159)

and arms and dick bleak future. In real problems that a6o, many of you

those poor bastards . . . (1)

Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373171)

from TFA

Stealing Wi-Fi internet access may feel like a victimless crime, but it deprives ISPs of revenue.
BWAHAHAHAHH . . . Yes, I'll certainly have to turn my thoughts to poor AT&T being deprived of revenue and starving in the cold, cold, night. Seriously though, anybody who relies on an Internet conection provided by a neighbor who is too dumb to secure their wifi doesn't strike me as a potential reveune stream for the poor ISPs. I doubt they would pay anyway. I think there's a distinction between people who piggyback as their sole source of Internet, and those who will hook on to an unsecured access point when they are out roaming and desperate for a connection. In my job I travel around my relatively rural county and the only legit public wifi I know of is a single coffee shop in town. If I can find an open router to go on and quickly hook up to the world, I'm going to do it with very little guilt. Now downloading a movie or something huge would be a different story . . .

Re:those poor bastards . . . (2, Insightful)

monsterlemon (713644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373591)

Yep, in the same way that giving a hitchhiker a ride is depriving a bus company of revenue. Or helping your neighbour install Linux is depriving both MS and your local PC repair shop of revenue. Let's just make "helping people" or "being a good neighbour" illegal in general, shall we?

I guess the real motivation for this being illegal in the UK is to try to reduce the possibility of anyone getting truly anonymous net access. After all, they might be TERRORISTS! Or PAEDOPHILES! Or inconvenient protestors who disagree with the government and are going to do something about it...

Re:those poor bastards . . . (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373727)

I am actually considering negotiating with my neighbors to set up an AP in the middle of our block and collectively buying a really fat pipe with a lower cost per person.

Not Wireless (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373191)

I have a wireless router that has the wireless turned off. My old router died and it was cheaper to buy a wireless one than a wired only one. They do come up open to the world by default. You have to actively lock it down. I would think that if they are open by default and that is how 90% leave them, there really should be no legal grounds for prosecution other than the judge's own technological ignorance.

I just read that news article with permission. (4, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373197)

Did I break the law? I didn't call up someone at net-security.org and specifically ask them if I can read their article.

How is putting up an unsecured Wi-Fi connection any different than putting up an unsecured website?
  • The WPA actually ADVERTISES the fact that it exists.
  • When you connect to the network, most networks will have DHCP happily gives out all the information, even giving you an IP address automatically to any computer that asks.
  • Many people actually put up an unsecured AP with the INTENTION of giving out access. (And thus this becomes common expectation)
  • Many client computers will automatically connect to unsecured Wi-Fi APs
  • The technology exists to easily put a password on the Wi-Fi connection to prevent anyone from connecting to it


oh, and here's one just for you people who like "it's like entering my house" analogies...
  • The wireless signals often times go right into MY house. i.e. I don't have to be one someone else's property to connect to an AP

Re:I just read that news article with permission. (2, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373699)

Here in Michigan they will throw you in PRISON for a FELONY for using a wifi connection without explicit permission. The corrupt police of Sparta Michigan even did so this past summer after he spent a week going through the law books in order to find something to slap on the dangerous man checking his email in front of the coffee shop.

In order to keep it quiet they simply made the man pay a $500.00 fine and 30 days community service but he still has a FELONY conviction on his record for checking his email.

These are the laws bought and paid for by your local telephone and Cable companies. They will be coming to all the other states soon so the rest of you can feel as safe as we do here in Michigan.

How else would I ... (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373199)

Download MP3s from P2P networks without worrying about being sued by the RIAA?

Er ... wait, I mean ...

- Roach

Re:How else would I ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373725)

Or there's the opposite approach. Once the RIAA serves you up some legal papers, tell them that you had an unsecured AP running and it was the neighbors that were doing the illegal crap.

If someone leaves the spigot open... (1)

latent_biologist (827344) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373201)

...what's wrong with filling up your bucket? My in-laws were considering going highspeed from dial-up but were on the fence. For $130 in wiring and equipment, I was able to tap off an open line-of sight connection that was amped up to reach 5 or 6 miles (grain elevator to grain elevator). The free wifi love lasted for 9 moths before someone re-adjusted the antennas & took their house out of the signal 'overspray'. The point? The network is still not secure (it's business connection, even). Their bandwidth wasn't used in a gluttonous way (i.e no p2p). No harm, no foul. If anything, it was to the benefit of the ISP because after the antennas were fixed, they acquired a new account.

considerate ISP's (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373255)

Furthermore, if you've hopped onto your next door neighbours' wireless broadband connection to illegally download movies and music from the net, chances are that you are also slowing down their internet access and impacting on their download limit. For this reason, most ISPs put a clause in their contracts ordering users not to share access with neighbours - but it's very hard for them to enforce this.

So ISP's are trying to protect me from sharing my access with my neigbours and thus getting a slow internet connection. How very considerate!

Sharing = Crime (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373273)

I intentionally leave my AP open so that anyone can use it if they wish. I don't see how this could be illegal for them if the owner of the access point, and the person paying for the bandwidth doesn't care if people use it. There's never more than one or two people on, I've never noticed my speed decrease because of it.

Re:Sharing = Crime (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373697)

Note: The following is not how things -are-, nor is it how -I- think, its just something to think about.

If you leave your wifi open, then obviously, people can do whatever with it. Now, obviously there's the (probably low) chance of people using it for something very, very wrong.

Now from there, if one needs to track who did the very very wrong thing (I'm not talking RIAA jokes here, but something serious under a warrant from a court), two things can happen: It was your router, you deliberately (as opposed to by mistake, though the whole "innocent until guilty" deal probably would make it hard to prove you did it on purpose, unless you had a very obvious SSID) left it open, so you're responsible for whatever happened (which is the case in some other fields in similar situation), or case 2: we cant track who did it, can't prove its you, so everyone's off the hook.

Either way, it could be seen as quite the potential problems vs the low gain. (We're not talking PATRIOT act here where people had to give up so many rights its not funny, for literally no real gain aside in the mind of delusional idiots). Thats why "it could be illegal".

Now, as far as I know, in most places its still not, but if I leave my cellphone outside (in an imaginary world where no one would steal it...I know, takes a lot of imagination) and let anyone use it, and people constantly use it for 911 pranks, well, I'm probably gonna get in trouble (if it gets genuinly stolen, its something else).

Again, this isn't my opinion by a long shot. But its a different angle to think about.

To the tune of "Alice's Restaurant"... (2, Funny)

MostAwesomeDude (980382) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373315)

You can have anything you wish, on "linksys" wireless.
You can have anything you wish, on "linksys" wireless.
Associate, it's on channel six;
Fire up your browser and grab some bits.
An' you can have anything you wish, on "linksys" wireless,
On "linksys" wireless!

redundancy (1)

notoriousE (723905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373405)

I look at the couple of neighbor's open APs as redundant backups for when my internet connection is down (with at&t as the telephony co, it happens a bit)

I'm swinging my arms... (3, Insightful)

Average (648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373437)

Look. 2.4ISM is an unlicensed band. Under 200mW, I have rights to transmit anything I want to. Period. If your router interprets it as a part of an HTTP request, that's not my fault. The "I'm swinging my arms, and if you walk into them it's your fault" theory.

And, I do think someone needs to introduce RFC 2131 (DHCP) into evidence. An open router responds to a polite request with a positive acknowledgment. It is possible to configure the box not to give that acknowledgment, probably via an encryption key, but also by MAC filters or turning off DHCP. Introduce the owner's manual while you're at it.

What the law SHOULD say (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373457)

If someone steals my TV set, thats theft. However, the law says that I have to choose to press charges against the thief.

The same should be true with open WiFi. Unless the owner of the WiFi router or device chooses to press charges, the police should not be able to charge them (i.e. what happened in the UK)

Internet everywhere (1)

kihbord (724079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373477)

Why not just connect them all together and maximize the use of bandwidth. That way we'll probably have free Internet access wherever we go. :-)

WiFi is nothing (1)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373483)

I hear that 100% of computer users have used someone else's HTTP server without permission!

I Leave My Connection Open Out of Kindness (1)

samuel4242 (630369) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373485)

I leave my connection open to share it with friends and neighbors who need a quick connection. It's easy to watch the flashing lights on the box next to my desk and there's never been a real problem. No one has abused it. No spammer has parked in front of my house and let loose a gazillion offers to fix the manhood of the nation. Really. It's been fine. It's like offering people a glass of water. It's like letting a traveling salesman turn around in my driveway. Some day, I hope that a contractor at my house or a doctor making a house call (hah!) will be able to use it.

Others should do the same. Sure, you can lock yours down. But this is just neighborly.

(He says as he crosses his fingers and hopes that no spammers come and take advantage of his kindness like they've learned to abuse all of the trust given to them by others on the network. Sigh.)

I love being the access point (1)

svunt (916464) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373489)

I have plenty of bandwidth, and my neighbours are hardly networking gurus, so I get a lot more value out of them than they get out of me. Trading a few gig a month of bandwidth for all the dirty viewing habits of three apartments full of people and the ability to dump horse porn on their desktops at will. Good deal if you ask me. Plus it keeps the music industry from pinpointing the source of all the Britney albums I upload.

Don't know about legality , but it's ok for once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373501)

Well, I believe that most people who have set up networks that are unsecure are people who hardly use the internet for purposes other than checking email /chat/news etc. I am sure most people who have a comcast connection don't utilise the full worth of it. In this case, it shouldn't be too bad if someone else uses it, albeit not causing any trouble to the original user.

How-to (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373543)

Step 1: Find a neighbor who is cool and possibly technologically challenged and see if he would be cool if you used some of his bandwidth for a while. Promise free computer services if he is a tough nut to crack.
Step 2: Get a wireless router supported by DD-WRT [dd-wrt.com] .
Step 3: Download the haxor'd firmware from DD-WRT and configure your supported device as a wireless bridge.
Step 4: Enjoy the internets! Step 5: To show your appreciation to your neighbor, get him a supported router and do the same thing with it so you both have a fail-over connection to the series of tubes!

I leave my connection open... (5, Interesting)

Newer Guy (520108) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373565)

I leave my connection open and my SSID reads "Use but dont abuse". At any given time, there are 10 MAC addresses in my DHCP log (I have 4 devices total). From what I can tell, NO ONE abuses the connection. One person (my elderly neighbor) uses it to email her kids and grandkids. What's wrong with that? I always have the bandwidth I need, and will continue to leave it open. By the way, only one other AP in this area is open. It's SSID is: Linksys.

One other closed AP has the SSID: "Free Ride Is Over".

I live in a community. Leaving my AP open benefits others within my community without adversely affecting me.

Whose fault is this? (1)

SleepyHappyDoc (813919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373605)

A major ISP in my country includes a wireless access point with their DSL gear. Everyone has one, whether they use the wireless or not. The problem is, the access point defaults to broadcasting a completely unencrypted signal. Most people that have their internet connection plugged in physically don't ever bother to look at the 'Wireless' settings on their box (the ISP isn't kind enough to inform anyone of their poor choice of defaults), so they have no idea that their connection is wide open. It's easy to say "well, they should have secured it", but that's unreasonable...they bought a wired internet connection and weren't told it also had wireless, and they weren't told it'd be turned on whether they want it or not.

If we're willing to hold Microsoft at fault for their poor choices that allow malware to spread, I think we need to put some blame on the manufacturers here.

Law enforcement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373669)

Doesn't the availability of so many Wi-Fi spots make it possible for people to commit Internet crime using another person's IP address?
Perhaps that's the angle that these government efforts are coming from - i.e. increased difficulty/confusion of law enforcement.
In my country, the government's publicity effort (on TV, in newspapers) uses that message.

Are they exaggerating the danger out of technical shallowness?
Or do they have a point?

Per Federal Law, Piggybacking IS legal (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21373747)

Per Federal Law, Piggybacking IS legal
US law clearly states that accessing unencrypted wireless is legal.
But first, I want to address a lie that was started by Alex Leary, a reporter for the St Petersburg Times. I have been following this story since it appeared. A "Benjamin Smith" was never arrested by the St. Petersburg Police for unauthorized access to a computer network, never charged with a third-degree felony, never booked by the Pinellas County Sherff's Office, and never scheduled for a pretrial hearing. There was no follow up to the story because there was no trial. Alex Leary made the whole story up.
Do not spread urban legends. Especially about the law. When you are told that something is against the law, ask which specific law? When you are told someone was arrested, ask for the booking number? Went to trial, docket number. When someone cannot answer these questions, do not believe them.
Accessing unencrypted wireless is VERY legal.
According to Title 18 (Crimes and criminal
procedure) of the United States Code, Part I
(Crimes), Chapter 119 (Wire and electronic
communications interception and interception of oral
communications) from
http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/wiretap2510_2522.htm [usdoj.gov] :
2511. (2)(g) It shall not be unlawful under this
chapter
http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/wiretap2510_2522.htm [usdoj.gov]
or Chapter 121
http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/ECPA2701_2712.htm [usdoj.gov]
of this title for any person --
(i) to intercept or access an electronic
communication made through an electronic
communication system that is configured so that such
electronic communication is readily accessible to
the general public;
2510. Definitions
(16) "readily accessible to the general public"
means, with respect to a radio communication, that
such communication is not --
(A) scrambled or encrypted ;
(B) transmitted using modulation techniques whose
essential parameters have been withheld from the
public with the intention of preserving the privacy
of such communication;
(C) carried on a subcarrier or other signal
subsidiary to a radio transmission;
(D) transmitted over a communication system provided
by a common carrier, unless the communication is a
tone only paging system communication; or
(E) transmitted on frequencies allocated under part
25
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_04/47cfr25_04.html [gpo.gov] ,
subpart D
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2004/octqtr/47cfr74.401.htm [gpo.gov] ,
E
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2004/octqtr/47cfr74.501.htm [gpo.gov] ,
or F
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2004/octqtr/47cfr74.600.htm [gpo.gov]
of part 74
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_04/47cfr74_04.html [gpo.gov] ,
or part 94 http://wireless.fcc.gov/rules.html [fcc.gov] of the
Rules of the Federal Communications Commission
http://wireless.fcc.gov/rules.html [fcc.gov] , unless, in the
case of a communication transmitted on a frequency
allocated under part 74
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_04/47cfr74_04.html [gpo.gov]
that is not exclusively allocated to broadcast
auxiliary services, the communication is a two-way
voice communication by radio; [The unlicensed
spectrum used by Wi-Fi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11 [wikipedia.org] is ruled by
part 15
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_04/47cfr15_04.html [gpo.gov] . ]

IPO press releases.. (1)

quarrel (194077) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373755)

In other news, 54% of companies that are about to IPO [independent.co.uk] put out an excessive number of press releases with dubious studies that might get them attention.

Take everything with a grain of salt.

--Q

I though I had security through obscurity (1)

Brianwa (692565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373759)

My house is pretty far from the street. I figured that since I can't even access the network from across the house, there there should be no problem with other people using it. Then my friend downloaded a file onto his laptop as we left the neighborhood... oops. I suppose I should do something about the unsecured Windows boxes in my house.

Eh -- too pejorative (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373769)

I bet a lot of people "admit" to "breaking the law" by exceeding posted speed limits, too. (Piggybacking Wi-Fi isn't always against the law, though, anyhow.)

Also, many people admit to reading sections of books at bookstores *even while not actively sipping coffee from an in-store cafe.* (Scandalous!)

Lots of people intentionally share their wireless access points, and have no objection to casual use by others. (Other's *do* mind, whether or not they bother to encrypt or contain their signal. Not saying otherwise.)

Some ISPs object, others don't care, others actively encourage it.

I know I've sometimes found directions when lost by finding an unsecured WiFi connection and firing up google maps. Do I feel especially bad about that? No, not really. I also don't feel bad about the several times I've used freely supplied, tax-funded wireless access points at libraries and some municipal buildings.

When I'm again earning money (rather than hemorrhaging it in the form of tuition), I intend to have at least some degree of accessible wireless from my home that others can use for quick connections. NoCatAuth (which I haven't looked at in a few years) seems like a smart way to set this up. I'd *like* people to be able to pop a quick email through a random wifi connection I provide, and I'd like to be able to find the same if I'm visiting another city.

Is it possible for Bad People to do Bad Things with unsecured wireless, like trigger IEDs spread misleading information through personal ads, and upload delicious recipes to North Korea? Sure, I guess -- just like it's possible for matches to be used to start forest fires. Context is everything. To assume that piggyback use is nefarious, or harmful, or universally unwanted, is silly.

timothy

 

Interesting (1)

renegadesx (977007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21373783)

"Use WEP and turn your computer off, that way no matter what your computer cant be hacked of its switched off" -- Nintendo's OFFICIAL justification for not including WPA support on the Nintendo DS

They no comment on the threat of WiFi piggy backing
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