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Confessions of a Wi-Fi Thief 849

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the is-that-a-bandwidth-in-your-pocket dept.
Michelle Shildkret from Time wrote in to tell us about a story about "the ethics of stealing Wi-Fi. Many of us been guilty of the same crime at one point or another — according to the article, 53% of us at least. But how guilty do we really feel? As it is officially a crime to steal wi-fi (Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 47 of the United States Code, which covers anybody who 'intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access')."
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Confessions of a Wi-Fi Thief

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  • Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xtracto (837672) * on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:31AM (#23856269) Journal
    "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access")."

    Then, I have never stolen WiFi. I have never accessed without authorization; as I have never cracked a WEP or WPA password scheme.

    Everytime I use an available wireless network, I instruct my computer to ask for permission to connect to the router and enter to the wireless network. And most of the time the router gives me such permit and assigns my router an IP. When it does not happen, then I assume the owner has instructed the router to give permission to specific machines (as in, machines with a specific MAC adddress) and hence I do not use such networks.

    Seriously, someone must create an interface in which a person is able to send the commands manually to the router (like the AT commants in a modem) to ask for connection permission (i.e., DHCP protocol). That way, when you are in court, you could use that program along the court's wifi to show them how you are indeed asking for permission and the software is granting you the permission.

    • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rinisari (521266) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:41AM (#23856509) Homepage Journal
      Exactly the defense that anyone would should use. If the plaintiff says, "Well, I didn't explicitly grant you permission to use my network," then you can fire back, "You did when your router gave me explicit permission by assigning me an IP address and giving me a gateway by which I could access the Internet. Essentially, I asked if I could use the network, and, acting on your behalf since you set it up, it said I could when it gave me the information required to use the network."
      • by e03179 (578506) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:46AM (#23856653) Homepage

        You did when your router gave me explicit permission by assigning me an IP address...
        I am not a Wi-Fi hacker, but I'm pretty sure that humans don't get assigned IP addresses.
        • by Bandman (86149) <bandman@NOSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:54AM (#23856875) Homepage
          I'm also pretty sure laptops don't get criminal trials
        • by CogDissident (951207) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:55AM (#23856883)
          Sure they do, mr 57.85.0.6
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Well, I sasked your door permission to open by turning the handle, and when it did, since it was unlocked, I entered your house while you were gone today.

        Since nothing was bolted to your floor, I proceeded to help myself to your TV and associated A/V equipment, your PVR, your Playstation 3, and your Wii. Additionally, your study door similarly allowed me to enter your study, where I noticed some computer equipment that wasn't chained to the desk, so I left with that, too.

        Since your doors granted me permiss
        • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Jeppe Salvesen (101622) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:06AM (#23857167)
          I believe it is a lesser crime to enter without breaking in.

          Now, if you use an open network, you only use bandwidth temporarily. If you leave the network, the bandwidth will still be there. So it's more like entering an unlocked house to take a sip from the faucet. The only crime committed is that you didn't pay for bottled water.
          • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:25AM (#23857639)
            I liken using somebody's unsecured wireless network to listening to a neighbor's music that they play loud enough for me to hear. I didn't ask my neighbor to send wifi signals into my home.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by XenoPhage (242134)
              You know.. if the neighbor is playing loud music, you can complain to the authorities about that... I wonder if the same is true for wifi signals? I realize that the loud music is generally an ordinance thing, but still..

              I wonder if there's a case there for high population areas where there are lots of wifi signals... There are only 14 channels, 3 of which don't overlap... Can you sue for interference? (not that I'm sue happy, just curious..)
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Q-Hack! (37846) *
              • Re:Not a thief (Score:4, Informative)

                by Martin Blank (154261) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @01:17PM (#23860269) Journal
                No. The same FCC regulations that cover the use of that spectrum also protect people from claims of interference. You only have a claim if you can show that the equipment in use by the other person is interfering with other electronic equipment, and even then there may be limits. You cannot complain, for example, that their microwave oven, which disrupts your wireless signal because it leaks somewhat around channel 9 and you use something in the range of 6-11 inclusive, is degrading your experience because that's simply a risk that you accept when using equipment in the 2.4GHz spectrum. The same thing applies to Bluetooth and 2.4GHz phones, which can interfere with all channels, though equipment in this spectrum is generally designed to co-exist fairly well.
          • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

            by McDutchie (151611) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:37AM (#23857923) Homepage

            So it's more like entering an unlocked house to take a sip from the faucet. The only crime committed is that you didn't pay for bottled water.

            Except that you didn't enter any house. Your neighbour is transmitting their open-access signal into your own house for you to use. Your analogy is therefore broken.

          • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

            by eebra82 (907996) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:39AM (#23857963) Homepage
            I hate the house analogy when used in these debates. What if someone sets up a WiFi zone that covers dozens of apartments? Are you basically saying that there is a house - that you may or may not enter - in my apartment? This is where that analogy fails, because a house is still property. My apartment is, however, my property and what's in it is rightfully mine.

            The WiFi, if not secured, is simply private space because there is no sign that prohibits trespassing. Why the hell should I be a criminal if someone penetrates my apartment with WiFi signals that are not secured by password?

            By breaking through the encryption, you're obviously doing something criminal. But that's something entirely different, too..
          • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

            by xtracto (837672) * on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:44AM (#23858115) Journal
            If you leave the network, the bandwidth will still be there.

            That could presumably be false if whoever is paying for the service pays for a limit GB/month allowance
          • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Interesting)

            by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @12:12PM (#23858807) Homepage
            I believe it is a lesser crime to enter without breaking in.

            Correct. Burglary is the act of breaking AND entering AND committing theft (logical AND; all three must happen). Theft is the intention to permanently deprive someone of physical property. Since accessing open WiFi does not involve depriving someone of physical property (neither permanent nor temporary), it is neither theft nor burglary.

            Fraud covers many crimes such as obtaining goods or services through deception. Since there was no deception, there was no fraud.

            A door does not reply with a message granting me access; the fact that it is open, closed, locked, unlocked, slightly ajar or otherwise is legally irrelevant - the important thing with burglary is that you had to break something to gain entry and then take something without permission, with no intention of giving it back.

            An open WiFi router does specifically reply with a message granting me permission. The fact that it uses a particular protocol or particular encryption is legally irrelevent - the important thing is that it replied back with a message specifically granting me permission. Users are authorised.

            (Declaration of interest: I run a deliberately open WiFi hotspot [framptoncottages.com] - albeit heavily firewalled and bandwidth-throttled. )
        • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

          by phoenix.bam! (642635) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:10AM (#23857263)
          Bad analogy. I ring your doorbell and a ticket drops from the mail slot that says "You're free to enter the house and watch some tv."
        • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gurps_npc (621217) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:18AM (#23857445) Homepage
          1. The door does not act in your example, the router DOES act. A more accurate analogy would be: I asked your door to open for me AND IT DID OPEN. Not impossible, as many businnssess have doors that automatically open. 2. You had people STEAL things instead of simply enter the house and watch TV. We are describing someone enter the wifi connection and use it to connect to the internet, NOT take other things. Stop trying to ADD real crimes that we are NOT discussing. God, is it THAT hard to pay attention to our points or do you just ignore people that disagree with you and make up vile lies?
        • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Informative)

          by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:37AM (#23857913)
          Entering an unlocked, unposted house is not a crime, at least not in my jurisdiction. If you enter a locked house, you're breaking and entering. If you enter a house posted with no trespassing signs, or enter a house and refuse to leave after being instructed to do so by a legal resident or their agent, you are trespassing. If you simply enter a house, stand around inside, and leave when asked without breaking anything, you have committed no crime.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by salemnic (244944)
          Oh c'mon - That _is_ a bad analogy. It would be more like your house was unlocked so I can in and made some local calls, or watched some TV.

          The taking of the stuff is where the analogy breaks down.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Spy der Mann (805235)
            You're right... because the "intruder" does not take ANY PROPERTY AWAY from the wifi "provider/victim".

            The case of wifi is very particular because the user pays a FIXED FEE. Not even plugging your tv on your neighbor's house would be equivalent.
        • Re:Not a thief (Score:4, Informative)

          by zmooc (33175) <zmooc@NOSpaM.zmooc.net> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @12:10PM (#23858745) Homepage
          The terminology of DHCP is even more clear than that of a simple login-form. It OFFERS you a LEASE. Next you REQUEST permission to use that LEASE after which the server ACKNOWLEDGES you REQUEST for a LEASE to use the network. Misunderstanding this is impossible if you speak english.

          A door doesn't, it merely opens, after which you still haven't been offered, granted, requested or acknowledged permission to enter the house.
    • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

      by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@pa l e gray.net> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:42AM (#23856551) Homepage Journal

      Then, I have never stolen WiFi. I have never accessed without authorization; as I have never cracked a WEP or WPA password scheme.
      That's the key to the whole debate. I've had a WiFi router at my home and various offices for years. If I enable features designed to limit access (MAC address checking, WEP/WPA encryption, etc) and someone tries to spoof and/or brute force their way into my network, that's theft of service and unauthorized access. If my router is set up for wide open access, I'm granting permission for anyone to use it.

      In general, laws are designed to work like this: that which is not expressly forbidden is permitted. We're talking about radio waves here; before anyone starts up with some dumb analogy to parked cars and leaving the keys in them, consider this: when you use a resource I have made freely available, you're not denying me access to it. Someone might make the argument that excessive use of my resource would degrade its usefulness to the primary (owning) party, but that's easily remedied using simple protection schemes (either block access entirely, or throttle access to unauthenticated clients). I've done exactly this in numerous cases, using various router packages.

      Here's a sad, but interesting article: Man charged with wireless trespassing [cnn.com] from July of 2005. To quote a section:

      Wireless networks are becoming more prevalent with the spread of broadband Internet access, and many consumers are not aware of how to configure their networks to avoid unauthorized access.
      This man was charged with a felony because the owner of the connection failed to educate himself on how to use a point and click interface to secure a home wireless router. Was he up to no good? Maybe, but we don't know for sure, and it's beside the point. If someone were to use my connection for criminal activities, it becomes my problem to prove it was the third party's actions, and not my own that led to the violation of law. He's "innocent until proven guilty" the same as I am. This is why companies (at least ones that aren't interested in getting sued) track their network access and provide authentication schemes.
    • by Toe, The (545098) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:46AM (#23856647)
      Indeed. I don't know how the law is interpreted, but I cannot imagine how anyone who broadcasts an unencrypted radio signal can complain if someone else picks up that signal. It would be like a TV station claiming that you are stealing their content because you tuned into their channel.

      You could say that a wifi router is different from TV because the activity is two-way: but the wifi router chooses to respond to me. If the owner of the router never bothered to tell their router not to respond to me, then is it my fault that it does? Am I guilty if my computer merely pings their router because it created a response on that router? They are the one who initiated the communication by broadcasting hello packets.
      • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:06AM (#23857155) Homepage Journal

        Am I guilty if my computer merely pings their router because it created a response on that router? They are the one who initiated the communication by broadcasting hello packets.

        Complicating matters is that certain popular OSes (XP, I'm looking at you) tend to auto-connect to the strongest signal available, no matter how nicely you ask them to stop doing that. If you're closer to your next-door neighbor's WAP than your own, and Windows decides to use his without asking your permission or even telling you, then can you really be considered guilty of anything? And doesn't that mean that the world's largest OS vendor considers "default allow" to be the correct interpretation of WAP etiquette?

        As little as I'm a fan of MS, I think "that's the way Windows does it automatically" would be a pretty good defense against criminal intent, even if a jury disagreed with the legality of the actions themselves.

    • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Animaether (411575) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:47AM (#23856685) Journal
      "as I have never cracked a WEP or WPA password scheme"
      Have you ever spoofed a MAC address?
      Have you ever connected to an access point that did not broadcast its SSID?
      Have you ever connected to an access point that says "private", "stay out", or otherwise?

      If 'yes' to any of the above; I don't know about the U.S. law, but in The Netherlands you would still be guilty of "computerhuisvredebreuk"; meaning so much as tresspassing on a computer network

      Then again, a great many people seem to think that even WEP encryption is an open invite to use the system, given the easy of cracking it.
      • Re:Not a thief (Score:5, Insightful)

        by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@pa l e gray.net> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:52AM (#23856829) Homepage Journal
        I've never done any of the things you describe, because I consider them to be highly unethical. In my mind, connecting to an unadvertised resource fails the ethics test because there's no way anyone could reasonably imply that consent was given.

        Those who crack networks by breaking WEP, spoofing keys, or other measures should be held legally accountable. People who merely access an open, advertised resource shouldn't be at risk of going to prison.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bandman (86149)
          I completely agree with your viewpoint.

          I've never been one of those people who feels like an unlocked door is an invitation, but call me old fashioned.
    • California law (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BasharTeg (71923) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @12:20PM (#23859023) Homepage
      Just for everyone's entertainment, the california statute that applies is:

      California Penal Code Section 502(c)(3) and 502(c)(7).

      And for all of the idiots stating that the "router" gave them permission, give me a break. The router isn't a legal entity, and only works in the way you interact with it. Just like the door knob.

      I twisted the doorknob (initiated association with the accesspoint), and the doorknob gave me permission to enter by retracting the latch (allowing me to associate and giving me a DHCP lease). The owner of the door could have configured the door differently, by engaging the lock mechanism (using WEP or WPA), so since he didn't I'm free to enter and watch his HBO (use his broadband internet access). I'm not "stealing" from him, because it's not like he has less HBO (internet) now that I've viewed some of his HBO (internet).

      A big part of what a lot of people are missing is, even if you had a point regarding associating with his wireless network because it is open (which you don't), that only gives you authorization to access his LAN. You still have no right to use his paid broadband internet services. You don't have that right, because you aren't paying the ISP, and because the owner of the access point doesn't have the right to share or transfer his right to use his internet service with all of his neighbors, just like I don't have the right to share my HBO programming with all of my neighbors. It's called theft of service. Even if you claim the right to access the wireless owner's network, you certainly do not have permission to access the ISP's network. And even if I run coax down my lawn, and put a coax jack at the end of my property so that people on the sidewalk can screw into it and watch HBO, that doesn't mean I have any right to share my HBO or that you have any right to leech service that you're not paying for.

      Using someone else's wifi is a crime, because you're not just accessing their network, you're accessing their ISP's network without permission. Giving away your wifi by intentionally hosting open access points is very likely a breach of your contract with your ISP.
      • Re:California law (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @01:12PM (#23860147) Journal

        And for all of the idiots stating that the "router" gave them permission, give me a break. The router isn't a legal entity, and only works in the way you interact with it.
        Just like a laptop -- many of which are configured to auto-connect to any open wireless.

        I twisted the doorknob (initiated association with the accesspoint), and the doorknob gave me permission to enter by retracting the latch (allowing me to associate and giving me a DHCP lease).
        Never mind that the doorknob also had a little built-in speaker screaming "Hey everyone! Free stuff in here!" (SSID broadcast.)

        I'm not "stealing" from him, because it's not like he has less HBO (internet) now that I've viewed some of his HBO (internet).
        Except he does. If he's on a metered service, he does have less Internet. Even if he's not, I'd be sucking down bandwidth, possibly lagging him out if he's on at the same time.

        that only gives you authorization to access his LAN. You still have no right to use his paid broadband internet services.
        No, the fact that the same DHCP lease also included information about available gateways and DNS servers, and that the DNS servers responded, and the gateway let me through -- I think that pretty much constitutes an invitation to use his broadband.

        You don't have that right, because you aren't paying the ISP, and because the owner of the access point doesn't have the right to share or transfer his right to use his internet service with all of his neighbors,
        Really? How should I know? Shouldn't that be (again) their responsibility for not sharing their service with me (assuming they don't have that right), rather than my responsibility to ask them (and then their ISP) for permission?

        What if they tell me it's OK? Surely, if I'm visiting someone's house, there's no meaningful difference between them sharing their Internet with my laptop, or inviting me to use their computer.

        For that matter, if SSID broadcast, working DHCP, working DNS, and a working gateway aren't enough to authorize someone, is there any technological means by which I can declare a wireless network to be open and legal?

        just like I don't have the right to share my HBO programming with all of my neighbors.
        As far as I know, it's still legal to throw your own superbowl party -- invite a few friends over to watch TV with you. So your analogy fails.

        Giving away your wifi by intentionally hosting open access points is very likely a breach of your contract with your ISP.
        Then that is between you and your ISP -- not between every random passerby with an iPhone and your ISP.

        Using someone else's wifi is a crime
        You've fallen into the same trap as the MPAA -- I bet you think sharing copyrighted music is a crime?

        Wrong on both counts. When I go to the coffee shops in this town, they have public wifi set up, deliberately, explicitly as free for their customers -- one of them has a sign in the window from their ISP which advertises it.

        And copyrighted music, of course, is entirely legal to share if you have permission of the copyright holder to do so.
  • Officially a crime? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skirmish666 (1287122) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:33AM (#23856323)
    Could you clarify, a wifi hotspot is classified as a computer? It's intentionally accessing a network for sure, but don't know about a computer.
  • by idiot900 (166952) * on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:35AM (#23856377)

    As it is officially a crime to steal wi-fi (Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 47 of the United States Code, which covers anybody who "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access")."
    Would this apply to an access point which advertises its SSID and doesn't demand credentials from users? I would argue that it authorizes everyone to use it. To draw an analogy, it isn't just leaving your front door unlocked, it's leaving it unlocked and putting up a sign that says "Please come in!". So I don't see how accessing an open access point is a officially a crime.

    But then again, I'm not a lawyer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Se7enLC (714730)
      To extend on that analogy - it's not like the front door of your house, it's like the door of a business.

      An advertised SSID is identifying an available service. Just like a sign that says "bookstore" or "Starbucks" advertises the service available inside.

      When I walk up to the door of the starbucks, I pull on the handle. If it's locked, I assume it's closed and I leave. If it's open, I go inside. Same with a wifi access point. If they have an advertised SSID and don't set a password it's the same as putting
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      To draw an analogy, it isn't just leaving your front door unlocked, it's leaving it unlocked and putting up a sign that says "Please come in!".

      Double that for access points in commercial places. You can argue (and I would disagree) that residential WLANs are meant to be private, but I would say that a business's hotspot is exactly as open as their front door. If it's unlocked and there's a sign saying "OPEN", then it's meant for me to use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JCSoRocks (1142053)
      Besides, how else are you supposed to get Internet when you first move? It took Comcast two weeks to come and set me up (and I'm a business customer). I'm sure it'll change one day... but until then, checking for and using a neighbor's wifi is just another part of moving!
  • Authorization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:38AM (#23856433) Journal

    Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 47 of the United States Code, which covers anybody who "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access"


    Open routers have a policy of allowing authorization by default. As such, using an open router is not illegal under this act. If you have to crack anything, then it is illegal. But a simple open router is no different than an open anonymous FTP site, web server, irc server, etc.
  • How Guilty? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stewbacca (1033764) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:38AM (#23856435)
    How guilty do I feel when my computer/phone/whatever connects to a wide-open wifi signal without even prompting me to do anything? How about, "not at all"?
  • Not At All? (Score:5, Funny)

    by D Ninja (825055) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:40AM (#23856477)

    But how guilty do we really feel?
    About as guilty as I feel when I drive above the speed limit.
  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:40AM (#23856485) Journal
    ...that I may or may not be using yours or someone else's unsecured wi-fi access point, Definitely maybe not, to post this response.
  • This story is stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pilbender (925017) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:41AM (#23856503) Homepage Journal
    WiFi hotspots are all over. I've connected to dozens of them. That's what they are for.

    So the only way a person *knows* it's not intended to be a public network is by having someone complain about it after the fact. Lots of people leave their WiFi open at home as a "public service".

    It's different to intentionally circumvent protections that are in place, like WEP or restriction by MAC address. That's prying open a locked door so to speak.

    Sometimes I think these article summaries are intentionally worded to get slashdotters cranked up. Okay, it worked on me.
  • Not at all? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:41AM (#23856531) Journal
    But how guilty do we really feel?

    Although I think the answer to that depends on how much (and how) we use it, I'd say that most people don't feel at all guilty about using any convenient access point for short, low-bandwidth activities.

    If I need directions while out and about, I'll find an open AP and pull up Google Maps. No guilt whatsoever, and I wouldn't mind if someone used my AP for the same; In fact, I'd consider this one of the greatest side-effects of ubiquitous open WAPs, the ability to share a small trickle of a resource I never need all to myself (and to use it when I similarly need that small trickle of data).

    Now, regularly using a neighbor's wireless to avoid needing to pay for your own ISP (unless you have an agreement to split the cost - Of course, the ISPs hate this, but I see no ethical problem with it) or downloading kiddie porn or sucking a large portion of the available bandwidth... That gets into abusive territory, and such people should feel guilty.
    • Now, regularly using a neighbor's wireless to avoid needing to pay for your own ISP (unless you have an agreement to split the cost - Of course, the ISPs hate this, but I see no ethical problem with it) or downloading kiddie porn or sucking a large portion of the available bandwidth... That gets into abusive territory, and such people should feel guilty.

      If we're looking for a "legal" definition, these activities (with the exception of the kiddie porn) are unethical rather than illegal. If someone leaves a

  • Blame Windows (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:42AM (#23856561)
    Windows is, by default, configured to automatically connect to new networks. Which means, it is configured to silently break the law, without your knowledge. The 53% of people who admit to stealing WiFi is probably really higher - many people don't know where thier bits are coming from.

    The power went off in my house the other day - and nobody noticed. The four or five laptops in use all silently switched over to a neighbour's network. I can't see that being considered a crime.
  • by VMaN (164134) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:43AM (#23856579) Homepage

    If this was wikipedia, "stealing" in this context would be a weasel word...

    If a router is handing out IPs, how is that stealing?

    Unless we are talking wpa/wep encryption cracking, or possibly abusing the connection, I don't see what the problem is.
  • Crime (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustKidding (591117) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:43AM (#23856585)

    As it is officially a crime to steal wi-fi
    in the US, maybe.

    Some people actually do live outside the US. This may come as a surprise to you, be we even have electricity and computers.

    Also, in many places, the law is quite a bit more reasonable. Where I live, it is only illegal to access a system when a reasonable effort has been made to protect it (so an open access point doesn't count), and even then, they have to prove you intentionally did that.
  • by feenberg (201582) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:48AM (#23856713)
    Here is a link to the actual law:
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00001030----000-.html

    In addition to "intention" there seems also to be a requirement for damage or fraud, or revealing atomic secrets. I don't think it is obvious that using a wi-fi router based on a DHCP reply is improper under the law, although the syntax of the law is complex. Walking up the front walk of a home to ring the doorbell isn't necessarily trespassing, even without permission.
  • tsoat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tsoat (1221796) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:48AM (#23856717)
    Encrypt your signal or expect people to use it. It's that simple folks
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:48AM (#23856721)
    I leave my access point open on purpose. Anyone can connect, and I even named my router "Open Access Point". If someone connects, I don't think they're stealing from me.

    At some point, I think society would be better served by everyone leaving all of their access points open. I love the idea of mesh networks and eliminating the need for everyone to have a wired connection to the internet.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:49AM (#23856731) Journal
    It's not well thought out. Otherwise you wouldn't have this issue in the first place.

    If I want to share my WiFi it isn't easy to make it known of my wishes and my terms and conditions - after all, though I share it, I might say I log access, (mac addresses, urls etc) just in case someone does something illegal, so that if the cops come, I could throw them that bone to chew on, instead of them chewing on me.

    If it were well thought out, it would be easy to have secure encrypted _anonymous_ connections:
    1) no need for people to enter a password to get encryption
    2) people cannot see each other's traffic - snooping is possible in some encryption modes, for example if everyone knows the WEP key, they can figure out each other's traffic, so you'd need some WPA mode, but these require username and passwords, you could give everyone the same username and password, but there's no standard for Windows, Linux, Mac to try "anonymous" usernames and passwords ala anonymous ftp.

    And also there would be a standard way to get info about a wifi zone, and to prompt the user if the info/T&C changes, say when you computer connects to a different AP.

    So the tech still needs a fair bit of work.
  • I don't get it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by leoboiko (462141) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .okioboel.> on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:55AM (#23856893) Homepage

    I don't see what's the drama with open access. I leave my AP open on purpose, with an essid starting with "free_" to reinforce the idea, and a simple QOS setup to give me priority over my neighbors. I can't even notice when they're using the net, and I counted more than 10 different MAC addresses so far. More people using the net == good. It's not like I need all my bandwidth 24/7...

    in b4 "but pedophiles will get you jailed, think of the children!!" -- I'm no more responsible for that than the hot dog vendor in the corner would be if ninja terrorists employed his hot dogs as lethal weapons.

  • oh boy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gTsiros (205624) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:59AM (#23856975)
    They rob me of quiet and peace. i never make noise. They gun their 50cc twostroke scooters at 2am. i spent 100 bux (70 euros give or take) to fix my car's muffler so it is SILENT where they PAY to make them louder. they toss their garbage wherever they like. i try to recycle. the rest of the apartment block is drenched in tobaccosmoke stench. when/if i smoke i make sure to neutralize the smoke.

    i don't feel guilty at all and don't you dare start with the "two wrongs don't make a right" crap. /torrenting as we speak
  • by random coward (527722) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @10:59AM (#23856983)
    I thought that law was unenforceable, since the RIAA violates it routinely and it is never enforced against them.
  • by szquirrel (140575) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:06AM (#23857173) Homepage
    For fuck's sake, do we have to go over this again? Stealing means that the perpetrator takes something away and the victim doesn't have it anymore. It doesn't apply to accessing someone's wifi, it doesn't apply to unscrambling a pay-TV channel, it doesn't apply to copying a digital file.

    If you're going to cast "unauthorized use" in terms of robbery, then don't cry about how your rights are being taken away when you get prosecuted as a robber for making use of something that someone else couldn't be bothered to secure properly.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:09AM (#23857223) Homepage Journal
    When I use WiFi signals that are in the air somewhere that I've got a right to be myself, like in my own home or office, I feel the same way about using it as I do when I use an electrical ground wire. Or reading a newspaper in the incident light.

    If those electrons or photons are trespassing in my private property, whoever sent them there is fortunate that I don't take countermeasures, in court or with a lethal focusing reflector.

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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