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Stealing Access

Today's lesson, boys and girls: Don't steal your neighbor's Wi-Fi bandwidth. From CNN.com:

Benjamin Smith III, 41, faces a pretrial hearing this month following his April arrest on charges of unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony.

Police say Smith admitted using the Wi-Fi signal from the home of Richard Dinon, who had noticed Smith sitting in an SUV outside

Dinon's house using a laptop computer.

Surfing through other people's wireless networks is a common as dirt ... but it might pay to check the criminal laws in your state before you do it.

I see a potential McGruff commercial here ...


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Stealing Access:

» Overtaken by Events linked with WiFi

» Jeff Quinton - Backcountry Conservative linked with FL man charged with stealing wi-fi signal

» Truth. Quante-fied. linked with Wireless Stealing Man Charged with Felony

Comments (34)

If a neighbor's tree hangs ... (Below threshold)

If a neighbor's tree hangs over your yard, you can pick the apples or oranges from that side with impunity. And, depending on where the sun is, you can sleep in its shade.

Why not wireless signal that spills over to blanket your property?

(If the wind blows that tree's leaves on to your grass, is the neighbor responsible for raking them up?)

Gez, all Dinon had to do wa... (Below threshold)

Gez, all Dinon had to do was secure his network. What an idiot.

Excellent point, Lair. I wo... (Below threshold)

Excellent point, Lair. I wonder if someone will have the balls to use that argument in court.

"Your Honor, can I be thrown in jail for enjoying the music I hear coming from my neighbors house?"

When someone overhears your... (Below threshold)

When someone overhears your radio they don't slow down the rate the songs come in for you and they aren't using your ID (IP Address) to access the music. If Smith was downloading mp3's Dinon would be the one sued by the RIAA. If he sent a threatening e-mail Smith would be blamed for that too. It's incredibly stupid not to secure your network but saying that not securing it makes it fair game for anyone to use is like saying it's OK for them to use your shower if you forget to lock your door.

Bullwinkle: Well said.... (Below threshold)
Old Coot:

Bullwinkle: Well said.

True enough Bullwinkle, but... (Below threshold)

True enough Bullwinkle, but in cases like this I think the law should be a lower recourse, being smart would have avoided the whole thing.

How many of you have a cord... (Below threshold)

How many of you have a cordless phone? How many of you know that anyone with a $100 scanner they bought at Radio Shack can listen to and record your calls? How many of you have some sort of scrambling device to keep your neighbors from doing it? How many of you don't think that should be illegal? After all, your signal leaks over into your neighbor's yard, so what's the difference? How many of you are going to use the other phone to call 1-900-HOTDATES now? Heh.

Why not just clunk both the... (Below threshold)

Why not just clunk both their heads together...the dummies!!

Funny thing, that isn't ill... (Below threshold)

Funny thing, that isn't illegal Bullwinkle, ask Chuck Shummer. In this case I suggest a cheap cordless, I can't get a decent signal beyond 25 feet with mine. But if my evil neighbors want to listen into my conversations they are welcome to it. If I want privacy I don't use cordless or cell, again prudence wins over the law. Ithink we are nattering with illegal v. unethical. All of these things you mention are, I believe, unethical, but I do not want the law to regulate everything unethical as that usually over-reaches.

On the one hand, a wireless... (Below threshold)

On the one hand, a wireless signal spilling outside your property is one thing. If the owner of a WAP is careless enough to have an open AP, that's his own tough luck.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure the law was intended to protect the network devices - hosts, servers, etc - rather than the layer 1/2/3 medium. So if the guy was out on the street w/ a laptop, he probably had to access a DHCP server to get an IP address... so it's an iffy proposition either way.

On the gripping hand, legislators as a whole don't know jack about technology and would be well advised to consult actual geeks (I'm available...) about the technical implications of the laws they're writing.

My neighbor barges in to us... (Below threshold)

My neighbor barges in to use the shower here any time he feels like it. Says according to his religion he has that right and that if I complain I'll have to deal with the wrath of his 63 brothers and their 72 virgins (each....what's that.....like 4500 virgins? HA! I don't think they could find that many).

What I really find disturbing about it is that he doesn't bring his own soap.

How many of you have som... (Below threshold)

How many of you have some sort of scrambling device to keep your neighbors from doing it?

You need no special device to secure your wireless network, you need only to set a WEP key. And no, just because the network isn't secured doesn't mean stealing it is ok. But an unsecured wireless network is much like Private Pyle's unlocked footlocker.

If it wasn't for dickheads like you, there wouldn't be any thievery in this world, would there?
-Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (FMJ)

Ted Kennedy: "Look over the... (Below threshold)

Ted Kennedy: "Look over there. It's Bin Laden under Roosevelt's nose."

Howard Dean: "You're right. Look at him. Quiet with a big stick. Under our very nose."

George Galloway: (he shouts from the tip of Jefferson's nose): "Let's leave him there. Like Roosevelt said: 'A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.' "

Actually, let me pose the q... (Below threshold)

Actually, let me pose the question a different way. Several stores and coffee shops in my area offer free wideband (presumably for customers). In two cases when I log on there are several unsecure wifi, some I am sure are renters upstairs. Being ethical I asked the store owner which was his. But if you went in and went for the strongest signal it actually wouldn't be the coffee shop's. Is this theft by me or stupidity by the guy upstairs? I am on the side of stupidity. Anybody that doesn't want to share should have WEP key. If somebody goes to hack this, then I think we have a crime.

I don't think the onus shou... (Below threshold)

I don't think the onus should be on the owner of the service to secure it, the onus should be on EVERYONE ELSE NOT TO STEAL IT.

This case is not a random accident. This guy parked on the network and RECONNECTED after being told to get lost.

Jim I am not saying the one... (Below threshold)

Jim I am not saying the one guy isn't a jerk, he is (actually, my reading of the case is they are both jerks). Let me phrase the argument a third way. If you leave your front door open I am allowed in many (most, all?) states to enter your house as long as I have no intention of committing a crime and police are allowed to gather clear sight evidence without a warrent. Is an open wifi an open door? Now we get down to the interesting questions, is steeling bandwidth a crime. What if the owner gets the wifi himself for free(a friend of mine works for a cable company and gets his wifi for free). At my college we have a policy of not letting students use their own computers on the network, but students always do and there is nothing we can effectively do.

I guess my question to you is where do we stop making laws? Should every single thing you do be regulated by law? Why can't we have reasonable people act reasonably, you don't want me in your house, don't leave the door ajar (I'll even bet I could take a shower and not get arrested, kinda crepepy huh?). But I will make a bet, this case will be thrown out and an injunction will given to Mr. Smith not to use his neighbor's bandwidth.

Why can't we have reason... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

Why can't we have reasonable people act reasonably, you don't want me in your house, don't leave the door ajar (I'll even bet I could take a shower and not get arrested, kinda crepepy huh?).

With this line of logic, I could tap into your cable TV line and your phone box and use it as my own. That would sure save me a lot of money.

The bandwidth thief's being... (Below threshold)

The bandwidth thief's being wrong does not negate the network owner's being stupid. It's been my observation that most crime victims get that way by being stupid.

Steve by tapping into my ph... (Below threshold)

Steve by tapping into my phone line (with no intent to spy) you are commiting a property crime and I suspect the phone company would get the courts to prosecute. And you are welcome to tap into my cable line as soon as you pay the cable company the $2500 to lay the line from the road to my house (long driveway).

But again you do bring an interesting point, if you tap somebodies cable, the cable company (not the customer) would sue for theft. So in the case of me stealing the bandwidth, should the DSL provider bring the case, not the neighbor (they are the ones losing the business after all)?

Pennywit writes: ... (Below threshold)

Pennywit writes: Today's lesson, boys and girls: Don't steal your neighbor's Wi-Fi bandwidth.

No. Today's lesson is that the cops might arrest for you doing something perfectly ethical and completely legal just because your neighbor doesn't know how to secure the wireless access to his Internet service.

If you configure your wireless network for open access, then you are authorizing anyone with a functioning network interface in range to join the network. However, it now turns out that you don't have to learn how to operate your equipment— you can just call the cops to come out to your house and enforce your network policy for you. Isn't that convenient?

If there were any justice in this case, the cops would have come out to this guy's house, listened to his complaint, then asked him if he would move the access point a little closer to the curb so they could get a better connection on their smoke breaks.

Legal? Hardly. Ethical? Com... (Below threshold)

Legal? Hardly. Ethical? Coming from a lefty it figures he'd think so. From the ideology that thinks wanting to keep what you earn is greed but demanding and expecting the government to confiscate it to give it those that did nothing to earn it is reasonable and ethical, predictable. After all, in s9's opinion those that won't/don't take care of themselves are every bit as entitled as those who can't, even though it takes away from those that can't. Compassion, yeah right....

bullwinkle writes: <... (Below threshold)

bullwinkle writes: Legal? Hardly. Ethical? Coming from a lefty...

Not hardly... definitely. If you buy an IEEE 802.11 network interface device that complies with FCC standards, then you're free to use it (so long as you haven't modified it) to join any open network you find in public spaces. What do you think "open" means? It means everyone is authorized to join it. You can't be charged with unauthorized access for joining an open network. That's like being charged with trespassing on private property for standing on a public sidewalk.

And yes, using your neighbor's unsecured wireless network to surf the Internet is perfectly ethical. My neighbors do it all the time. And furthermore, yes, it is perfectly ethical to keep using the network after someone (who for all you know may or may not be the owner of the access point) walks up and screams at you to get off "his" network. If the owner wants you to stop using it, he can TURN ON THE FSCKING ENCRYPTION.

Calling the cops because you can't figure out how to RTFM is exactly the sort of stupid behavior that most conservatives think is typical for "lefty" people. I can't believe you're defending this moron. It's appalling that the cops and the courts are going to waste their time with this stupidity. Can't figure out how make your network secure? Don't worry! You can just call the cops have them arrest anyone they find parked on the street in front of your house with an open computer. The cops love to do stupid makework like that. Keeps them from having to actually prevent real crime and stuff.

s9,It is called th... (Below threshold)


It is called theft of services. And no matter how much lipstick you try to apply to that pig it isn't gonna turn it into anything but a pig.

Using your logic you should be able to shinny up a electric pole and tap into it to get free electricity. Or tap into the local cable tv box and get free cable. I suggest you try both and see if your argument holds up in court. You will be quite a bit poorer by the end of the day.

So you're saying that he br... (Below threshold)

So you're saying that he broke no laws by stealing service. I think the police might disagree with that , the legislators that wrote the law might too. I'm not defending the idiot that was running without security, I called him extremely stupid. I can't believe anyone but a lefty thinking theft is legal, but then again, we all know if someone has more you think anyone that has less is entitled to his or her "share". That's the whole philosophy behind liberalism, theft or any other form of dishonesty is not only acceptable, it's a friggin' right. Those who earn a living owe those who won't and take away from those who can't, effectively robbing both out of nothing more than sheer laziness. Crime pays, as long as you call it something else, like compassion, for instance. Do you have any ideas about how long this system of yours can support itself if everyone adopts it? BTW, just in case you haven't realized it yet your attitude and beliefs make you nothing more than a common thief.

That's the whole philoso... (Below threshold)

That's the whole philosophy behind liberalism, theft or any other form of dishonesty is not only acceptable, it's a friggin' right.

John Stuart Mill, right?

nahanni writes: I... (Below threshold)

nahanni writes: It is called theft of services.
bullwinkle writes: So you're saying that he broke no laws by stealing service.

It's not theft. Benjamin Smith, the guy in the story who was arrested, did not steal anything. Richard Dinon, the guy who called the cops, did the moral equivalent of this: he put a big sign on his lawn that said "Free Internet Access!" and he called the cops because somebody took him up on the offer.

Wi-Fi access points broadcast a beacon packet every N milliseconds. This guy had his configured to specifically to say it was an open network. Anyone can join. He had configured his router to allow anyone to get Internet service through a globally reachable address. This was readily and easily determinable without trespassing or stealing anything.

p1. The electricity utility owns the distribution lines in my neighborhood. If I did what you suggest, I would be tampering with their property, which would be a crime. The same thing goes for the cable and telephone junction boxes in my neighborhood. They're also clearly marked as private property with warnings against tampering.

p2. I have no idea who you think you're talking about, bullwinkle. The political ideology you seem to be ascribing to me is entirely a figment of your imagination.

Summarizing, it's not theft when you take something that is explicitly and freely gifted to you. That's what Mr. Dinon was doing— and when he was too much of a dumbass to figure out a way to stop doing it, he called the cops and convinced them that what he was giving away had actually been "stolen" by Smith.

That's unethical, and conservatives shouldn't be apologizing for it. Spinning up a totally irrational screed about leftist political ideology doesn't help either— it just makes you look dumb.

Hey Mantis, it's one of the... (Below threshold)

Hey Mantis, it's one of the guys on your side that is claiming theft isn't theft. I have a quote from someone a little less famous than Mill. It goes like this:
If you take it and didn't pay for it or earn it you stole it, YOU ARE A THIEF--

bullwinkle writes: <... (Below threshold)

bullwinkle writes: Hey Mantis, it's one of the guys on your side...

Doubtful. More likely, you're just being a dumbass yourself— assuming that everyone who doesn't repeat back to you the exact words you hear yourself saying must all be on the same side, i.e. the enemy side.

A lot of rank and file conservatarians seem particularly prone to this logical fallacy. It's why Stalin found them so useful.

Well, bullwinkle, you were ... (Below threshold)

Well, bullwinkle, you were actually telling us all what you think "the whole philosophy behind liberalism" is with that quote.

Let's ask this, if you left a stack of dollar bills sitting in your driveway right next to the sidewalk, and people kept walking by and taking them when you weren't looking, what would the most logical solution be, to call the cops or to just put your damn money inside?

By the way, I'll be by later to take your guns, your bible, your tv, and all your income, as I am a liberal and that's just what we do. Just leave them out on the driveway. Thanks.

mantis writes: By... (Below threshold)

mantis writes: By the way, I'll be by later to take your guns, your bible, your tv, and all your income, as I am a liberal and that's just what we do. Just leave them out on the driveway. Thanks.

Be sure to put out a big sign visible from 100 meters away that says, "Free Stuff! Please Take What You Want!" Some of us would rather not steal from you— even if you are too stupid to keep your stuff where it belongs.

A crude analogy, but the b... (Below threshold)

A crude analogy, but the best I can come up with at this time of the morning.

You're sitting in your backyard, enjoying a cold one. The foxy, female-type person who lives next door comes out to her back yard, takes off all of her clothes and lays down to sunbathe nude. You have a clear line of sight of her doing this, without having to peek over the top of a fence, climb a tree, poke your head through bushes or enter her property in any way. You go into your house, get your camera, and come back out and begin snapping pictures of her. Is this dumb of her? Presuming she doesn't want you to do this, yes. Is what you're doing unethical and contemptible (not to mention incredibly tacky)? Yes. Is what you're doing illegal? I strongly doubt it.

Courts in this country have held that paparazi photographers occupying a public space that they or anyone else has a legal right to occupy (such as in a car parked on a public street) have a right to photograph anybody or anything they please, including people engaged in what are normally considered private activities. If they trespass on private property they can be arrested. The same goes if they hide a camera in a storm grate to get "up-the-skirt" shots of passing women without their permission. And the same principle should apply here.

Now if Smith had tapped into a hard wire that carried the ISP's signal into Dinon's house, the ISP would have a legitimate beef. If he was trespassing on Dinon's property or accessing premium services that Dinon would have to pay extra for, Dinon would have a legitimate beef. And if he was using access to steal Dinon's credit card information, or e-mail death threats or access kiddie porn sites which could be blamed on Dinon, then lock him up and throw away the key. But much as it galls me to agree with s9 on anything, if all he was doing was accessing Dinon's service (by pulling it out of the thin air, so to speak) without damaging anybody's property or bank account, or committing any other crime, I don't believe he should prosecuted. (Punching him in the mouth is an entirely different issue)

Edit: add ",on private prop... (Below threshold)

Edit: add ",on private property" to the end of the first sentence, third paragraph ^^. *SIGH*

Maybe the dumb f should sec... (Below threshold)
Joe Mama:

Maybe the dumb f should secure his network. How can you have sympathy for a fool who leaves their wi-fi unsecured. Lame..

the thing most people seem ... (Below threshold)

the thing most people seem to be missing is what he was viewing or downloading,I know him personaly and if the cops could get into whats saved on his lap top there would be a whole new charge I know what he was doing and although how he got on the net should not be ileagle what he was doing is






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