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Man Arrested for Using Open Wireless Network 1443

Posted by timothy
from the reefer-madness dept.
DaCool42 writes "In Tampa Bay, a man has been arrested for using a wide open WiFi AP. The St. Petersburg Times has the full story. 'It's no different if I went out and bought a Microsoft program and started sharing it with everyone in my apartment. It's theft,' said Kena Lewis, spokeswoman for Bright House Networks in Orlando."
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Man Arrested for Using Open Wireless Network

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  • Open doors (Score:5, Informative)

    by bburton (778244) * on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:03AM (#12991462)
    Police say Benjamin Smith III, 41, used his Acer brand laptop to hack into Dinon's wireless Internet network.
    Yeah, because we all know how much "hacking" is required to use wide open WiFi connections.

    Also, the poor guy admitted to using the connection too (unauthorized access to a computer network, which is a third degree felony according to the article). Now, if he would have just asked for a lawyer and then shut up, he probably would have gotten off with just a warning.
    • by Kethinov (636034) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:08AM (#12991491) Homepage Journal
      You mean the free internet I'm getting from my neighbors isn't legal? :(
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:00AM (#12991748)
        No and if you keep clicking on those damn slashdot goatse links I'm seriously going to turn WPA on.
        -your neighbor
      • Legality (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Morosoph (693565) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @12:22PM (#12994909) Homepage Journal
        The ISP defense that it's like sharing one copy of MS Office is pretty poor, as the bandwidth is fixed; it's more like sharing a video, which seems to me to be entirely legal AFAICT.
    • by PopeAlien (164869) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:09AM (#12991503) Homepage Journal
      It remains unclear what Smith was using the Wi-Fi for, to surf, play online video games, send e-mail to his grandmother, or something more nefarious.

      .. or quite possibly.. ALL OF THE ABOVE!

      For safeties sake lets just outlaw the internet.
    • Re:Open doors (Score:3, Informative)

      by L.Bob.Rife (844620)
      Dont some wireless setups automatically search for an open wifi channel to use?

      Dont lots of businesses leave open wifi connections for customers to use?
      • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bigman2003 (671309) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:25AM (#12991583) Homepage
        I've got a handheld (Dell Axim) and frequently when I am out and about, I'll turn it on to see what networks are open.

        The other day I was eating my lunch near some businesses, and I found 4 networks...3 of which were completely open.

        I sat there and checked my e-mail while I ate lunch...not a big deal.

        Then I went into one of the businesses (that is the reason I was out in front eating) and I saw a big 'free wireless networking' sign on their counter. And this was a physical therapy clinic...
      • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Questy (209818) <questyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:08AM (#12992753) Homepage
        I know in my last apartment that from my sofa I could see three separate unprotected networks *AND* my protected one.

        Oftentimes (the way the nic drivers for my card worked) would cause my system to prefer the stronger signal, so I would waft onto one of the other networks. I was only free from the other nets when I logged into each one as admin (they were broadcasting the name "linksys" and had left the original admin accounts untouched) and add my MAC address to the deny list.

        So, the question then becomes, when I was using their networks, was it because I was intruding onto their network, or because their network was intruding into my home?

        I mean, at what point (other than logging into their WAP as "admin" :) ) does using these networks constitute a crime? Isn't it incumbent upon the owner of said network to secure it? If I leave a set of tools on my front step and it disappears, then I see my neighbor with it, just how mad can I be for having left it out for anyone to walk off with?
    • by pwnage (856708)
      Wow, no kidding. I commit this crime every time I go over to my girlfriend's apartment! Better get me a lawyer.
    • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:27AM (#12991592) Homepage Journal
      Right now you're accessing network that you have no received permission to access. Guarenteed. How can I possibly know? Well heck, you're posting on Slashdot. The whole concept of the Internet is based around a default policy of openness. It is assumed that we have permission to access anything connected to the Internet and that assumption is only revoked by layering an authentication system on top. These people who buy a wireless router, connect it to their network, don't even bother to turn on the authentication system and expect it to be private are just pissing in the pool.
      • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bfizzle (836992) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:05AM (#12991772)
        That is an interesting point that you've brought up.

        It is completely opposite way of thought than how American's have previously thought about property. For example how many of you grew up and left doors unlocked to your house or car all the time. I for one never locked my car doors at home nor the front door to my house. It is your private property and you never expect anyone who wasn't welcome to break those boundries, but we have welcomed the Internet with it's complete opposite point of view.

        I wonder if this same ideal is why people don't bother securing wireless even when most have some grasp of the reprocutions of not securing their wireless.
        • Open Lands (Score:3, Insightful)

          by blase (592627)
          Seems to me, instead of doors locked or unlocked, a better analogy might be whether open land is fenced/posted or not.
        • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Insightful)

          by earthbound kid (859282) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:42AM (#12991903) Homepage
          It's like this: even if you don't lock your door, you still have a right to be mad when you walk inside and find someone eating the cookies in your kitchen. On the other hand, if you don't build a fence, you can't get mad when the neighbor walks his dog and it pees on your grass.

          It's the same thing with Wifi: you have every right to be pissed off if someone tries to get stuff off of your computer, even if you're dumbass fault that they were able to. On the other hand, if someone is using your bandwidth, it might be sort of annoying to you, but unless you take steps to put a stop to it, it's your fault they're doing it.

          The fact is, for most broadband connections, unless the person is file sharing or using VOIP, it's no skin off your nose that they're doing it. If for some reason, it bothers you to be neighborly, the onus is on you to secure your stuff.
          • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mnbjhguyt (449178) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @03:18AM (#12992013)
            I don't think the open doors analogy is fit.
            What you are getting is not a property, is a service.

            When using network sockets, there are well documented protocols being used.

            So the client computer is basically saying to the server, or wireless router: can I connect?
            and the server replies: sure, go ahead

            It would be the same thing if a bartender gave drinks for free because he wasn't trained in asking for money in exchange.
            Would the customers be liable of theft if they took advantage of this?
            • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Insightful)

              by hazem (472289) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @03:57AM (#12992166) Journal
              It's more like sitting on the sidewalk outside someone's house at night. Their porch light is on and you're reading a book by that light.

              One could say you're using the light they paid for without their permission. On the other hand, they're letting the light spill out into public land.
              • by Mythrix (779875) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @04:37AM (#12992301)
                Or it's like this:
                Someone bought a wireless router to share his internet connection at home with the rest of his family, but he didn't bother to setup any security.

                Then someone outside of the house connects to the wireless router to use the internet connection, without the owner of the router knowing or approving this.

                ...wait, what were we talking about again?
          • by Floody (153869)
            So this guy is walking down the street, his stomach grumbling with hunger. In a row of a shops to the right he spots what looks like it might be a sandwich shop, but he can't tell. There's a sign with no writing up and no hours on the door.

            He walks in, and sure enough, there's a "make table" with all the goodies someone could possible want for a sandwich. Oddly though, there's nobody in sight, and no cash register! Hell, not even a tip jar to be seen. He scans the room for a price marquee, or any in
        • by Klowner (145731) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:44AM (#12991911) Homepage
          Crap, and all this time I've been walking into people's homes and plugging my laptop directly into their switch.
        • Re:Open doors (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TheoMurpse (729043) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:57AM (#12991952) Homepage
          The difference between WiFi and the car/house analogy is that a WiFi hotspot broadcasts its information, inviting connections. There is no "breaking in" involved. If there was a house that had a sign in front saying "Open House Today" with the door open, you are welcome to enter legally, as it's an open house. Haven't people ever been to these in neighborhoods before? This is equivalent to an open WiFi access point.
          • Re:Open doors (Score:4, Insightful)

            by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @07:22AM (#12992790) Homepage Journal
            I don't think it's anything like that to be quite honest, and I think the technical analogies are way off. For example, those arguing that the WAP "invited access" might just as well argue that an unlocked door "invites access" ("But, your honour! The door handle turned when my hand made a request to enter, responding by opening the door. I was clearly invited in")

            A WiFi hotspot does not invite unauthorized connections by virtue of broadcasting its existance. With Wifi using radio spectrum, it's a necessary part of its operation that requires that it transmit its existance so that authorized nodes can connect to it. The best one can argue is that if the hotspot is unsecured - eg the WAP accepts connections without authentication - then we have an "unlocked door". However, as most, if not all, WAPs are sold in a default configuration where they are unlocked and broadcasting an SSID, it's a stretch to argue that the owner of the WAP has deliberately opened their network to all.

            Let's stop being nerds with bad analogies and look at the real world. WAPs are consumer equipment. Most WAPs are bought with the intent that their owners use them to connect their own laptops, etc, wirelessly to their Internet connection. Most owners aren't even allowed to run open networks by their ISPs, and are well aware of the fact.

            Perhaps what we need here is a way for those opting in to running open networks to flag the fact, rather than have everyone guess at intentions based upon something that has nothing to do with anything. eg Slashdotters think "This AP is open! That must mean I'm allowed to connect!"; actual owner thinks "This AP is cheap and easy to set up. I just plug it in and I can go anywhere in the house with my laptop and browse the net!"

          • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Interesting)

            by v1 (525388) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:27AM (#12993072) Homepage Journal
            I was just fine-tuning the analogies being used here and have one of my own that's a little closer to the point.

            Imagine your neighbor has a TV going loudly - he has cable TV and you do not. You hear a show playing you've been meaning to see. You yell over the fence, "mind if I come over and watch that show?" The neighbor's butler yells back, "Sure, come around through the gate.". You go over, sit down and enjoy the show. After the show is over, the owner shows up, and is PISSED because you are there.

            The neighbor has not lost any property, but has been denied payment for a service he has performed. (providing you with entertainment) Unfortunately for the neighbor, you were allowed free access to the entertainment indirectly by the neighbor. The neighbor has no legal grounds against you because you were acting with permission of an agent of the neighbor. (the butler)

            This is very similar to the issue of open access points. The wireless router being the butler that's been told to allow anyone that asks to be given free internet access. Just because you get upset that the currentl policy of your own access point bothers you does not give you free license to sue someone that has taken advantage of your offerings.

            Looked at another way, if a store owner places a tray out in his grocery store labeled "free samples", and some kids come in and start eating the samples, the store owner has no right to prossicute the kids for theft just because it's not "what he intended". He has every right to change his mind and tell the kids to leave, but what's done is done. Give someone permission to do something, and you're just going to have to accept it when they've done it.

            This second example has only one assumption to be made though... does an open access point imply a "free samples" sign? Surely we can agree it would not be the same if the tray was sitting in the store and did NOT have a "free samples" sign, surely anyone in the store would be apprehensive about taking something from the tray, and surely the store owner would have right to be upset if someone started snacking on his new display he was setting up. Unfortunataely, access points come from the factory open, and unedjucated consumers don't realize the door is open by default for the world, so they feel that their beliefs take precidence over their actions. This complicates the matter of assuming an open access point is intended to be a free access point, because it can't easily be said that most access points that are open are intended to be free. I'd be willing to bet that 90% of the open access points in my city would get closed if the owner realized I had free and unimpeded access to them. Given that simple reality, I realize that most laws are made to protect the majority, sometimes from their own stupidity.

            Should accessing open wireless access points be illegal? That is a tough question for me to answer. I believe the 'free' sign cannot be assumed because the majority of WAP owners simply don't realize the WAP is open to all - this is not something that anyone can effectively argue against. This makes the open access point much more akin to the plate of what appear to be free samples in the grocery store, but with no sign saying "free samples". This places Joe Public on much more shakey legal ground if he digs in. It could then be assumed that the onus is on the public to determine whether they really are free samples before digging in, and if they eat some and then the store manager storms out and is pissed because you are eating his display, I believe it could be assumed he has a right to be upset.

            The simplest way to clear this up is to ship WAPs with free access disabled, OR to ship all WAPs with a label taped over the power jack, saying THIS ACCESS POINT SHIPS FROM THE FACTORY WITH ALL SECURITY AND PRIVACY FEATURES DISABLED. UNLESS THIS CONFIGURATION IS CHANGED BY THE CONSUMER, ANY MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC THAT COMES WITHIN THE RANGE OF THIS DEVICE MAY HAVE UNRESTRICTED ACCESS TO YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION. With that in place, the onus then falls on the WAP owner to secure his access point, and we can more easily say the "free" sign is out on the WAP if it is left unprotected.
            • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Insightful)

              by v1 (525388) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @08:54AM (#12993231) Homepage Journal
              Following up on my own post...

              I was just thinking - this could be viewed from another angle as well. Imagine the owner of a new drive-in theatre, but he sets up no privacy fence along the back of his lot, which is exposed to a little cafe with outside seating. Lots of people come to the cafe each evening, and watch the show from there.

              The drive-in owner gets pissed because people are obtaining a free service (entertainment) from him without his permission. It's possible to assume a dim bulb might not realize this is going to be a problem. There are privacy measures he can take (set up a fence) and should reasonably assume are required to insure his privacy. (you don't change into your swimsuit while standing by your pool in your back yard unless you have a privacy fence) In this respect you can say that a person's privacy is their own responsibility, and if they take no actions to enforce their privacy and it is violated, that it is their own fault.

              Based on this argument, if I were hauled into court over accessing an open access point, the most important piece of evidence I would present would be the WAP's owner's manual. I would highlight the places in the booklet that described the security and privacy features available to the consumer, and highlight the places where it stated what the default behavior of the unit was. I believe this would be an adequate defense. If the consumer chooses to be ignorant about his property that is capable of interacting with the public, then they accept this interaction. Otherwise if they've read the manual and not used these privacy features, they have knowingly accepted the risk of having their privacy violated.
      • Re:Open doors (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sancho (17056)
        Only partially.

        You have an agreement with your ISP that allows you to access their network. They, in turn, have agreements with their upstream providers to allow their customers access, and so forth. You only start getting into "non-authorized" access when you start talking about the end-points. But the traffic-passing request itself seems to be fairly locked down and, in general, considered NOT to be "open".

        If you want to test this, tap into your ISP's line and start browsing from it. See how long be
    • Re:Open doors (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Romancer (19668) <romancer&deathsdoor,com> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:41AM (#12991663) Journal
      It'd be interesting to see what OS he was using.

      If it was Windows xp-pre-sp2 it would have automatically connected to the network.

      He could have been lost, stopping to look up directions on his laptop when he noticed he had internet access, then went to mapquest. It's just a hypothetical but some wifi cards with connection software still auto-connect to unencrypted networks.

      Is this scenareo against the law?
    • Re:Open doors (Score:4, Insightful)

      by boisepunk (764513) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:13AM (#12991806)
      um... you might want to read this:

      http://www.washingtonwatchdog.org/documents/usc/tt l18/ptI/ch119/sec2511.html [washingtonwatchdog.org]

      specifically the part about electronic communications "made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public"
      • Mod parent up! (Score:3, Interesting)

        The parent makes a good point. I'm not as certain about the state laws that may apply, but in any case, it's hard to argue that open WAP's are not configured to be available to the general public. It's not really a case of accessing a network without permission; it's a case of requesting permission to access the network and being granted that permission by the AP. The ability of the AP to grant that permission is, after all, entirely under the control of the user.
  • A poor analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jhon (241832) * on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:04AM (#12991468) Homepage Journal
    I dunno... I think a more appropriate analogy would be if one installed a huge arse window in the front of your house, then stuck a giant plasma TV in it and getting annoyed and frustrated when people stopped by and watched TV through you window.

    It's not a perfect analogy, but it's much better than the 'It's no different if I went out and bought a Microsoft program and started sharing it with everyone in my apartment. It's theft' argument.

    I dont want to bang on the "the guy had it coming" drum, but Dinon admitted he KNEW how to secure his wifi but declined because most of the people in his neighborhood are "older". That suggests to me, at least on this topic, that he wasn't acting like the sharpest knife in the drawer. But still, it's more than a little unsettling to have some 40-something guy sitting outside your house using your resources. While the article doesn't say he was a perv, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he was -- and pulling kiddie porn or somesuch.
    • Re:A poor analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ne0nex (612727) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:10AM (#12991504)
      no different if I went out and bought a Microsoft program and started sharing it with everyone in my apartment. It's theft'

      or better yet, continuing to use her flawed analogy:

      It's like buying a Microsoft program, and leaving the open box, with the jewel case and installation media on the sidewalk in front of your house then bitching when someone walks by and installs it.
      • Re:A poor analogy (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jxyama (821091) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:52AM (#12991716)
        >It's like buying a Microsoft program, and leaving the open box, with the jewel case and installation media on the sidewalk in front of your house then bitching when someone walks by and installs it.

        Well, there's another aspect to this. This guy was around for hours - the article does not mention exactly how long, but definitely longer than a few hours. And he pretty much had no reason to be there except to mooch off the wireless internet.

        I am not sure about calling the police but if some random person was hanging out in front of my house for hours for no apparent reason, I'd be a bit peeved and freaked out.

    • Re:A poor analogy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721)
      It's not brain surgery to secure a WiFi connection. If this guy intentionally transmitted and received radio packets, then perhaps he should be prosecuted by his ISP.
    • Re:A poor analogy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by teksno (838560)
      well i actually think a approtite analogy would be if i set up a web server for a page that only i wanted to view. say some pictures of your girlfriend naked...now unless i protect that site with some sort of authentication, whats to stop you from entering the url and seeing the pictures i took of your girlfriend...

      nothing.

      same sort of deal IMO...

      or what if you play you stero so loud that you neighbors can hear... are you going to call the cops saying that your neighbors stole your sound waves by listen
    • Re:A poor analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jamesh (87723) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:40AM (#12991662)

      Or worse still, he could have been spamming!!!

      The person being arrested should be the one with the open access point. The owner could be committing all sorts of illegal acts and can then claim 'But my access point is open. It could have been anyone. Prove it was me!'

      How can he be arrested for using a resource which was advertised publically? The guy was broadcasting his ssid with no security on it, which sounds like an invitation to me

    • Re:A poor analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HardCase (14757) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:46AM (#12991688)
      I think a more appropriate analogy...

      How about not using any analogy at all - this isn't exactly rocket science. Don't screw it up by suggesting another bad analogy to explain a simple situation.
    • Re:A poor analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:48AM (#12991701) Homepage Journal
      Or it's like, umm, leaving a hotdog on the front seat of your car in the midday sun.. it just keeps gettin' hotter man. Ya know, prior to The Enlightenment there was only two forms of argument. The first form was the usual "appeal to your sense of humanity" emotional bullshit argument favoured by mothers and republicans of all eras. This argument usually starts with the five most stupid words you can ever use to start an argument: How would you feel if.. The second form of argument available was the "appeal to analogy" style or, to use a fancy name for it, Case Based Reasoning. That's the kind that summary girl used and you just compounded, where you try to dumb down the situation so people who have never thought anything through in their lives can make a snap decision about the moral standing of a unique and complicated situation. Following the middle ages we received another kind of argumentive style. Some might call it a "modern" style of argument, but I prefer to say that it is a logical form of argument. This is where you state a number of basic axioms and then using easy to follow rules you present a string of statements which one can follow to arrive at the current situation. For example, you might present the axioms:
      1. People exist in time.
      2. People feel pain.
      3. Pain is unpleasant.
      4. Actions can be taken by one person to make another person feel pain.
      5. Sometimes people can be provoked into performing such actions.
      6. Causing pain without provokation is unjustified.

      From these axioms you can easily make the argument that beating people up for fun is not justified. By introducing just a few more axioms you might make the argument that drivers should be licensed to ensure a minimum level of competency in order to prevent unprovoked pain to others, etc.

      But hey, feel free to keep making arguments the old fashioned way. After all, it's not like you ever claimed you weren't intellectually lazy. It's not like you're posting on a site where one of the most treasured attributes of the target audience is their intellectual superiority or anything.
      • Re:A poor analogy (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheoMurpse (729043)
        emotional bullshit argument favoured by mothers and republicans of all eras

        I don't think it's only Republicans making the "think of the children" arguments.
    • by jd (1658)
      This is one of those cultural things, and Florida is a strange culture. :) Actually, I'm semi-serious here, as the UK doesn't recognize trespass in general - you have to demonstrate an intent to keep someone out, you can't just assume they should know as if by magic. (Unless it's Paul Daniels.)

      So, if you've an open field with no fences, no signs, no barriers of any kind whatsoever and no indication that it is private property, then it is generally assumed to be reasonable if you take a shortcut over it, a

  • But really..... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DotNM (737979) * <matt.mattdean@ca> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:05AM (#12991470) Homepage
    How was the guy supposed to know that he didn't intend for the AP to be open to everyone.

    AP makers should force, once the device is connected for the first time, for it to go to a config page which outlines all the security settings (WEP, etc.)..... maybe then some people will start to understand security.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:07AM (#12991486)
    If microsoft left xp disks at street corners unattended complete with legal cororate serial numbers would they be surprised if people were using them? Same idiocy here. Leave a network open and someone's going to get in. If you're lucky it's just for free internet.
  • by EvilMagnus (32878) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:07AM (#12991488)
    ...but the actual facts are more compelling. It seemas though the person using the unsecured wifi was engaged in less than legal activity. If the owner is lucky it was just spam - but it could well have been credit card fraud or even (gasp!) child porn.

    The moral of this story? Don't switch wi-fi on unless you *really* know what you're doing.
    • No, the story in fact does not mention any illegal activity that the person performed. It only says that the guy used the WiFi point, then it goes off on a tangent about illegal uses of WAPs, giving the impression that any use of WiFi is illegal, omitting the fact that criminals have HACKED INTO CREDIT CARD DATABASES, replacing that with "using an unsecured Wi-Fi network."

      They try to lead you to belief that Smith was downloading child porn. This is a sensationalist article, and this person should sue for d

  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LearnToSpell (694184) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:08AM (#12991492) Homepage
    "It's no different if I went out and bought a Microsoft program and started sharing it with everyone in my apartment. It's theft."

    No it isn't. It's not even a copyright problem. What, now I need an extra license if somebody's visiting and they want to check their mail?

    It remains unclear what Smith was using the Wi-Fi for, to surf, play online video games, send e-mail to his grandmother...

    Don't let that stop you from closing out the article with wild speculation though.

    "I'm mainly worried about what the guy may have uploaded or downloaded, like kiddie porn," Dinon said.
  • by EvilCabbage (589836) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:08AM (#12991494) Homepage
    ... I shouldn't expect to be robbed, or for someone to come in and watch my TV and drink my beer any time they like.
    The cost of them watching my TV and drinking my beer might be minimal, but that's not the point. It's my TV and my beer.

    This is the reason people lock their doors and close their windows. We shouldn't need to worry about people coming into our homes, but we do. These people need to learn to secure their wireless points.

    I am in no way justifying what this guy did, but hopefully it will highlight something to Joe Average and get them to lock their AP's down tighter (or in most cases, lock them down at all).
    On noting the open point, this guy should have at least tried to locate its owner and let them know about it, maybe even offer to help them fix the problem. Instead he took advantage for his own gain, just like any petty theft act really.
    • by Mr2001 (90979) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:31AM (#12991611) Homepage Journal
      But if you leave your TV facing the front window, and you don't close the blinds, you shouldn't be surprised when people on the sidewalk look through your window and watch the TV you're paying for.

      An open wireless network is hardly a "back door" - it advertises its existence to the world, and it blankets an entire area. Walking in through a back door means targeting a specific house and looking for a way in, but it may not even be possible for the average person to figure out which house is hosting a particular wireless network.
    • The analogy is a stupid one. I have a wireless laptop. When ever I turn it on, it automatically connects to the WiFi of the guy upstairs. In fact, I generally have four wide open connections blasting through my apartment at any one moment. In order for me to not connect to his connection, I need to go through and disconnect from his network each time I boot up. His connection is wide open. It would be one thing if I had to hack into his network and steal a password, but if you are blasting a signal wi
  • RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swtaarrs (640506) * <[swtaarrs] [at] [comcast.net]> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:08AM (#12991496)
    If you actually read the article you'll see that he was sitting outside someone's house in his SUV using his laptop. That is quite different from simply tacking onto your neighbor's network, he was outside the house sitting there for the sole purpose of leeching off his internet connection. While the Microsoft analogy is a bit stiff, at least read the article before you all go crazy.
    • Re:RTFA (Score:3, Interesting)

      I fail to see a difference. If you go to a library solely use their internet, it's no different from if you go to get a book and happen to check your email while you're there. If you go and sit in your own car outside someone else's house and listen to the radio, it's the same as listening to it at home (well, it's a bit weirder to sit in your car, but equally legal). Fact is, the guy was on public property, accessing public, unencrypted radio signals. There's nothing illegal about that as far as I know
    • Re:RTFA (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ZhuLien (150593)
      um... I actually have a wireless network *specifically* for passers by wanting to browse my wirelessly delivered website. the fact that no-one has yet connected doesn't mean they aren't supposed to get in their SUV with their laptop - that's the whole point. If someone makes a publicly accessible network, it is publicly accessible right?
  • by DJ_Tricks (664229) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:09AM (#12991499)
    and i supose if you go and drink water from a public fountatin i should be arrested too for the fact the water is open to the public and not locked down. Sounds like they dont want to take fault for not fencing up a public oasis in the middle of no where because you know if it isnt yours its owned already by some one else more powerful and richer then you. Also what if the wifi is a public wifi by choice for the people to use? is it still stealing then?
  • Erm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mar1no (559482) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:09AM (#12991502) Homepage
    I always thought stuff like this was a little weird.

    It is like a radio station only allowing members to listen to their station, but broadcasting to everyone and saying if someone who isn't a member listens in, they are breaking the law. Either set up your shit so only authorized people can access it, or don't and not be permitted to have unauthorized people arrested for using it.
  • by ad0le (684017) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:11AM (#12991519)
    He could have kept his mouth shut... blamed his "connection" on Windows XP's "auto connect" feature for WiFi devices and sued Microsoft for incured losses..... I'm resisting the urge to say .... Profit!!!
  • Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by secondsun (195377) <secondsun@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:13AM (#12991529) Journal
    Ok, the headline should read "Man Arrested While Using Open Wireless Network." He was arrested because he had been sitting in front of a guys house all day in his suv on his computer. Whenever he was approached he would shut his notebook and look suspicious. After a few hours of the nonsense the police were called.

    The rest of the article is standard "open wireless is for kiddie porn and a gateway to identity theft" FUD. Of course, most people just use it to download music for free, but the warnings of consequences for the owner of the network are legit. If your network is used in-appropriatly, you ARE responsible.

    Turn on encryption, add a password, add mac based filtering, turn off dhcp and you are pretty much set.

  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:33AM (#12991625) Homepage
    That is, piggybacking off someone else's wireless in the building. I told them it was not a good idea due to security and legal concerns, among other things, exactly like the article says.

    How do you know what's coming over that Internet line you're piggybacking on? Okay, so it's not going to your MAC address based on your initiated connections, but how do you know what kind of worm or virus is running on that guy's machine - and what it's scanning for in terms of local connections? It's just dumb to piggyback unless you have a really secure setup, and if you know that much, why don't you have your own wireless?

    It's also possible to find out who is piggybacking once it is noticed because all you need is a laptop with NetStumbler and walk around until you get a signal from a laptop and capture the MAC address. Then just knock on the door (if you're the building manager) and demand to see the computer - if the MAC matches, it's over. This is bad news for people who are in buildings that charge for wireless access. Fortunately for them, most of the management and other tenants probably aren't that knowledgeable.

    As for this guy in the article, he was obviously stupid to hang out right in front of the victim's house, and then CONTINUE to hang around even once the victim had spotted him. Guy must have been desperate for that connection for some reason, which probably means it was something illegal he couldn't afford to be seen doing at the local Starbucks.

    On the other side, I can't understand what the victim meant by not having security because other residents "were older". Was he sharing with the other residents in his neighborhood? If so, then wasn't HE screwing the service provider? Did I miss something here? If it's stealing to share an open wireless access point without someone's knowledge, then it's stealing to share one WITH someone's knowledge. I don't think the terms of use of most commercial providers allow for sharing access to anyone except perhaps ones immediate family at one location (unless of course it is a building-wide access point that is paid for by the building - which doesn't apply in this case because Dinon's is a residential home.)

    So it seems like this guy got arrested for accessing an individual's network while the individual involved was sharing it with his neighbors probably in violation of his Terms of Use contract.
    • by Stalyn (662) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:53AM (#12991940) Homepage Journal
      Then just knock on the door (if you're the building manager) and demand to see the computer - if the MAC matches, it's over.

      I'm sorry but a personal computer is personal property and unless you have a warrant you have no right to look at someone's computer or even demand such a thing. Also a person would be in the right if they replied to such a request with a "Go Fuck Yourself". If you are so worried about people leeching off your WiFi just turn on the encryption. It's a lot easier then busting down doors and acting like a jerk.
  • by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius@gmailPASCAL.com minus language> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:49AM (#12991703) Homepage
    You guys need to calm down a bit and get rid of the immediate kneejerk reactions, though I do admit that the summary is a bit misleading.

    I agree that a felony is a bit stiff for such a victimless crime, but for what it is worth, this guy was asking to be arrested. He sat out in front of the house in his SUV for nearly a whole morning before the police were called. If you are going to use someone's wireless AP, at least be a bit more covert about it. There are so many unsecured APs out there that you could easily exploit and never really be noticed. Go downtown, go to a park with business nearby. Sit somewhere where nobody would think twice about your presence there. I'm sorry, but sitting in front of someone's house for 5 hours and then even more stupidly admitting what you were doing is just asking to be thrown in jail.

    This guy deserves everything that he gets. This isn't just a case of someone sitting somewhere and flipping open their notebook and noticing a connection. I do not have wireless at my house for a lot of reasons (asides from the fact that wired ethernet is an awful lot faster), but when I am sitting on my porch, I do admit that I sometimes use the neighbors AP. For my lightweight web browsing, I don't really think that I am interfering with their network or in any way damaging their equipment, thus creating a totally victimless crime. I never even bothered to look to see if they have open shares, but I digress. Also, unless you specifically know of a public access point any network you connect to is technically illegal trespass.

    What I find amusing is that I can trespass on someone's property and I get a misdemeanor and when I do the same thing virtually, I'm looking at years in pound-me-in-the-ass federal buttlovin prison. I'm a good looking, somewhat effeminate male as well, so I doubt I would do very well with my future cellmate Bubba. The laws definately need to be rewritten quite a bit, and unfortunately with all the identity and data theft these days, I just see them potentially becoming worse and more draconian.

    I will say that this guy is a total douche bag. Anyone that thinks it is ok to just sit in front of someone's house for hours without having a specific purpose is just asking to be stopped and harassed by the cops. If someone sat in front of my house for more than an hour, I'd be calling the cops too, regardless of why they were there. I don't agree with the statements that people have made that wireless access points should be required by law to be secure. Do we really need to waste tax payer money on attempting to enforce more unenforceable laws?

    If anyone should get upset, it should be the broadband provider, but I honestly don't think that even they could consider putting forth theft of service charges against people who run these networks, good samaritan or stupid joe blow. Maybe when cable services start becoming wireless or more broadband oriented, but that is a whole different story and a wholly different topic for right now.

    Moral of the story is this: It is not against the law until you get caught and when you do, don't openly admit that you broke the law and get yourself a decent lawyer when the felonies start to roll over your head.

    I hope they just give this guy community service or something, but that is me.
  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:54AM (#12991722)
    If someone has a wide open WiFi network, how is one supposed to know it's not being kept open as a private public service? If you leave a desirable good out in the open, with no signs of ownership or desire to be kept private, I don't see a problem. If you want to keep your WiFi network private, encrypt it and turn off broadcasting. This is like a radio station or the police arresting you for receiving a clear over the air signal.
  • by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @01:59AM (#12991741)
    Why didn't this guy really confront the dude in the SUV?

    First time be friendly and helpful. Hey how are you doing? do you need some help I noticed you've been out here a bit. No decent explaination, next time tell them to clear off, or you'll let the police know what his plates and description are and that he's been casing houses.

    Everyday people never seem to take the initiative.

    • by davmoo (63521) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:23AM (#12991836)
      I have some mod points this week, and I was all set to mod a few comments in this thread. Then I saw this post, and decided I'd rather reply in the thread than mod.

      The reason the guy didn't confront the other dude in the SUV is simple...people very often get shot/stabbed and killed for doing so. It happens on a regular basis in the US. There are a lot of mean and nasty motherfuckers roaming here.

      I am not a small man. I'm 6 foot tall and weigh 300 pounds. But if I saw a guy I didn't know sitting in front of my house late at night doing something possibly naughty, my first instinct would also be to call The Law. The only way I would walk up to that vehicle myself would be with loaded shotgun in hand.

      The man who called the law was not a coward. He was very very smart.
  • The reporter in the article seems to think that people can easily protect themselves on wireless networks, and we all know that just isn't true for several reasons:

    - Depending on the card you buy PCs sometimes have trouble converting ASCII to bits in the same way. I have this problem with, say my NETGEAR and my Mac.

    - WEP sucks and we all know it, so 15 minutes of a determined script kiddie's time and that's the ball game.

    - WPA isn't yet available everywhere, and even it is supposed to be an interim standard to 802.11i.

    In short, you can only avoid nuisance freeloading with WEP and it's a pain to use if you have multiple PCs. Especially if you're not the sort that reads /..
  • Attractive Nuisance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cmd (56100) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @02:00AM (#12991751)
    This seems to be similar to "attractive nuisance" violations: If a homeowner sets up a trampoline in his front yard he must also put a fence around it. Otherwise, he cannot complain about trespassers when all the neighborhood kids start jumping on it. Furthermore, without the fence the homeowner can (and has been successfully) be sued for negligence when one of those kids breaks his neck.
  • im curious.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jnf (846084) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @03:04AM (#12991975)
    So, say my apartment/house gets bombarded with the neighbors wifi? Whose property is it? I mean, surely its his radio signal, but its passing through my property. This is akin to running a telephone line through my house. I realize this is somewhat ridiculous, but seriously, your rights stop when they impede mine.

    Let's suppose for a second that I sit at home in my bathtub wearing a tinfoil hat and that i don't feel comfortable with your radio waves passing through my house, is it within my rights to try and stop you?

    if so, is it within my rights to use your internet?
  • Signal Strength (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kooshvt (86122) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @03:05AM (#12991979)
    Ok lets just say for arguments sake that he wanders with his laptop to the opposite side of his house, far away from his own wireless access point. The computer sees the other access point has a stronger signal and latches on to it during a break in communication with his own access point. He is unaware of the change and continues with his business. Are the default settings for wireless access communication illegal? What would stop someone from plugging in a wireless access point boosting the signal strength and calling the police any time someone accidentally connects? I live in an apartment complex with about 7 other visible access points. I occasionally get bored and plug in a spare access point with no internet connection attached to see who accidentally locks on to me and loses their internet access.
  • by aluminumcube (542280) * <greg@e l y s ion.com> on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @03:13AM (#12991996)
    It is about the fact that the guy was a fucking creep.

    Seriously- if he REALLY thought what he was doing was OK, why did he act all cagy and close the laptop/drive away every time the homeowner saw him?

    WiFi or not, this guy was acting strange in front of someone's home in such a way that I think it would probably freak most people out. The cops used the WiFi excuse just to bust the guy and I say jolly good show on them. I would feel very diferently if the guy simply said to the homeowner who he was and the fact that he was surfing on his net connection, but he didn't.
  • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @03:21AM (#12992028)
    It's no different if I went out and bought a Microsoft program

    Exactly - I can see it now Man arrested for using Microsoft Software See /. articles on how your Win machine will instantly become part of an intergalactic Beowulf cluster of anal probe gizmotrons on powerup.

  • by stuartkahler (569400) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @03:30AM (#12992068)
    Say I leave my sprinkler turned on to water the area around the city sidewalk in front of my house. Some neighborhood kids start playing on the sidewalk, in the water. I move the sprinkler to another section covering the sidewalk and the kids follow. Is it something they should be punished for, or should I move the sprinkler off the sidewalk, or just shut up and get on with my life?

    I'll buy loitering, no problem. Felony computer network trespassing? No way. If the guy had issues with someone using his AP, he should have turned it off. Or simply told the persont o quit leeching his broadband. Either way, I bet the offending guy would have driven off right away.

  • by ptb (134290) on Wednesday July 06, 2005 @10:51AM (#12994366) Homepage

    Caveat: This article is merely the results of my research, so please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer and am not qualified or licensed to disburse legal advice. Corrections to this information are welcomed and desired.

    My research would indicate that accessing an open (that is unencrypted) 802.11b/802.11g wireless network is not a federal crime. However, individual states may have enacted their own laws.

    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 usdoj.gov [usdoj.gov]:

    2511. (2)(g) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter [usdoj.gov] or chapter 121 [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 [gpo.gov], subpart D [gpo.gov], E [gpo.gov], or F [gpo.gov] of part 74 [gpo.gov], or part 94 [fcc.gov] of the Rules of the Federal Communications Commission [fcc.gov], unless, in the case of a communication transmitted on a frequency allocated under part 74 [gpo.gov] that is not exclusively allocated to broadcast auxiliary services, the communication is a two-way voice communication by radio; [Ed. FYI the unlicensed spectrum used by Wi-Fi [wikipedia.org] is ruled by part 15 [gpo.gov].]

    I do not believe that Title 18 (Crimes and criminal procedure) of the United States Code, Part I (Crimes), Chapter 47 (Fraud and false statements) Section 1030 (Fraud and related activity in connection with computers) from usdoj.gov [usdoj.gov] applies:

    1030. Fraud and related activity in connection with computers
    (a) Whoever--
    (1) having knowingly accessed a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access [...]
    (2) intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains--
    (C) information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication;

    Whether or not this would apply would depend on the definition of the term "protected computer". An open netwo

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