back to article Half of computer users are Wi-Fi thieves

More than half of computer users have illegally stolen Wi-Fi connections, according to The Times - but only 11 alleged offenders have been arrested in the UK, as the police seem to think those deploying Wi-Fi should be more careful about securing their connections. The data was collected from a "Have Your Say" survey on the …

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Stop

WHAT!?

"...if the hacker has used your broadband to log on to an illegal site, this will be traced back to your wireless router. Then it is your job to persuade the police that you are innocent."

Wait a fucking minute! Surely it's the POLICE's job to prove that YOU are guilty? Or did I miss something?

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@AC

Yes, you missed the last ten years of Labour Government.

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All that now needs to happen

Is to track down that 54% of people who answered the Sophos questionnaire as 'Yes' and imprison them. 302 evil, devil-loving scum removed from the streets. Maybe on-line questionnaires should be used as a police tool.

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Alert

:-( oh dear

Sadly we seem to be turning into a shoot first ask question later (or never) society... :-(

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Anonymous Coward

Stealing?

Only if the owner says it is. My wifi's open, feel free to use it.

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Boffin

LOL

So if an unisured driver falsely gives your name and address to someone who he's just totalled on the A39 you get sent to jail for driving without insurance.

Yep I can see that one going to court.

Mind you, the rozzers will probably take all your PC's and your toaster away for 18 months to sit in a warehouse while they go through the backlog of hardrives to scan. You'll probably never see them again.

Only then you may be "bovered" to spend 30 seconds clicking a box and typing in a WEP key on your lappy.

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Go

Technically...

Rember reading a while ago that there was an argument that you had permission to use any wireless hotspot...

Your machine had requested an i.p. address from the router/hub and it had provided one. Therefore, if you ask, you shall recieve.

Convincing the plod of your innocence in this may prove another matter entirely though

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Anonymous Coward

customer

Working in a service departement for a fruit company, i've had mulitple customers complaining about not being able to detect "the intertube" anymore.

When i ask who supplies there internet connection, they look at me baffeld and say ... oh, its not mine but its not working anymore.

Most of the time, when i say i don't want to help them anymore because it being a illegal activity, they get mad because its an issue and they need help.

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Jed

Journalistic distortion shock horror

Half of computer users are Wi-Fi thieves

becomes

54 per cent of the 560 PEOPLE WHO RESPONDED admitted nicking bandwidth

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Pirate

50%ish?

of what? the 10% maybe 5% of actualy internet users that visit the sophos website because they're interested in security and are willing to do a stupid survey?

so by my estimates that makes it 2.5-5% of internet users, and that's probably an over estimate!

oh n I read the article, why is it hackers that are using someone else's bandwidth, even mislabeling a cracker inplies theres something to break into, its like breaking and entering a house when the doors wide open, its just entering, if anything they should be labelled as freeloaders.

anyway back to hacking wide open wi-fi points to download my plans for world domination

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Title

"as the police seem to think those deploying Wi-Fi should be more careful about securing their connections."

For once (probably for the first time) I am in agreement with th boys in blue on this one.

Maybe manufacturers should take on more responsibility and provide equipment that is already secure...

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IT Angle

It is the police....

The routers record the connection but also state at which distance the interceptor was. This will prove your innocence. However, there is always the loop hole that you can get a laptop... sit in your car outside... download stuff you shouldn't and say it was someone else that must have done it.

Alternatively get your connection encrypted (which can be cracked including WPA encryption) or just go back to plain old cable. It's faster and definately, more secure!!!

No point blaming someone else if you don't take steps yourself. Shouldn't really have an IT angle logo... do you have one for common sense?

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Dead Vulture

Proof of guilt

Actually, it isn't the Police's job to prove you guilty. It is their job to make up evidence and shoot Brazilians.

Anonymous Coward. Too right.

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Burden of proof

[And there was us thinking that it was up to the CPS to prove guilt, rather than the other way round]

A slight misunderstanding there - the CPS have to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt, and then you can raise a defence, although it is generally your job to prove the defence. The jury then ignores everything, breaks out the ouija board and channels the spirits of the dead to make a decision.

I don't see the defence being overly successful - it smacks of convenience (think of a hit and run and the owner saying "oh I keep the car open with the keys in it - could've been anyone") Whilst it could definitely create doubt, you have to avoid the mistake of confusing the law and the minds of the jury. The two rarely meet.

In short, secure that wifi port if you don't fancy being woken up (and possibly shot) by the Fuzz at 4am.

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Anonymous Coward

The bar across the street has an open WiFi

Is it open because they want to promote themselves? because they want people to use it only in the bar? because they didn't know to set the password? Is it someone elses WiFi that's using the bars name?

Their tables are in the square next to the bar.

Is the square owned by the bar? Am I trespassing if I go there?

Come to think of it, the man down the street has a brick drive that runs from his house across the pavement to the street. Does he own that pavement, am I stealing it if I walk across his bricks? I'm certainly denying him the use of his drive while I walk along that part of the pavement if he owns it.

You know, it looks like an open pavement, so I use it as an open pavement without seeking pre-permission. It looks like a public square, so I use it as a public square without seeking pre-permission. It looks like a public WiFi point, so I use it as a public WiFi point without seeking pre-permission.

The Sophos question 'is this a victimless crime', presumes it's a crime either with or without a victim. But it's only a crime in the UK and US due to out of date wording of old laws.

The fix is to correct the wording to bring it more in to line with trespass laws.

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Ash
Black Helicopters

54% of wifi users steal bandwidth?

Well, 98% of people who fill in these questionnaires lie.

Prove me wrong.

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Coat

@ Ross

"oh I keep the car open with the keys in it - could've been anyone" A defence successfully employed by the Met. Police to avoid having to pay most of the speeding tickets they collected last year.............

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Happy

its so easy

even my mother does it.

Rather than paying extortionate prices for BT broadband packages she piggy backs on her neighbours who are students and are dumb because they use no security what so ever.

The best thing about it is, she only discovered this when she bought a mac, I didn't need to tell her how to do anything, she just opened it up for the first time and it immediately connected to someone elses network... her excuse "well I thought it came free with the mac" LOL!

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Paris Hilton

Harsh Police Crackdown

7 forces, 11 convictions between them.

Obviously a major crime surge being efficiently and successfully targetted by our Boys in Blue.

I won't go into the survey statistics because they are pathetic (as described elsewhere).

On of the saddest things is the posting to the Times site (allegedly from someone in US Homeland Security from Texas) which added assault to the 'crimes'.

This must be one of the slowest news days of the year!

Paris, where are you when I need you?

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Silver badge

Hong Kong hotel: 20th floor, 39 wifi networks found...

Recently I was on the 20th floor of a Hong Kong hotel (*) and my laptop (propped up in the window) found as many as 39 WiFi networks. Several of them were wide-open and I helped myself. I believe that's the entire point for many people - they purposely want to have their very own, free, public hotspot. With an unlimited data plan from their ISP, it costs them nothing and makes them feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that they're helping others. Bless their little hearts. Airwaves are public property (not a private space like your house). If the router is open, then it's open. If it is locked (even a little bit), then stay out (no hacking). There is no practical way to obtain explicit permission other than that it is open. It's that simple.

* http://2007philippines.blogspot.com/2007/09/out-window.html

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Go

Poll?

Maybe the reg should ask it's users on this one.....can we beat 52%?

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BT Fon

So with the new BT Fon service, you voluntarily give up some of your bandwidth for others to use and it's legal for them to connect but if you do it off your own back and leave your wifi unsecured and are happy for them to connect, it's illegal? Logic...nah

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Anonymous Coward

There is no practical way to obtain explicit permission other than that it is open.

Well, you could ask?

You can't assume that something is free just because it's there.

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Paris Hilton

Paris

I have nothing to say, I just wanted to see the Paris Hilton icon.

p.s. she is annoying.

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Stolen?

What, did the 1's and 0's have the owner's name on it?

Are 100% of people "stealing" other people's oxygen? Because I breathe out most of the O2 I breathe in and some other bugger goes and breathes that in before I get to! Dagnabit!

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Anonymous Coward

So, that means WinCE is supporting crime?

I had a mobile phone with WinCE (it didn't last long, too irritating an OS), but it had a habit of picking up unsecured WiFi links automatically. If I recall correctly, some of the Skype phones I've tried do the same thing (I think they run Linux).

This automation makes it thus easy to do something illegal - unwittingly.

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Wait a minute here......

Since the UK is a mother may I country who loves to control and tax the populace this is a great way for the citizens to contribute to the welfare of the country.

Tax and license all WiFi connections. This is a revenue stream and an excellent control mechanism.

The UK could even set up a ministry of WiFi and grow down the road to require even more of your tax dollar. They could hire some wardrivers to find open networks and issue fines to generate even more income.

You have to look at the possibilities.

Okay, problem solved. Let's go down to the pub and have a few. Last one in buys.

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Black Helicopters

Far reaching implications...

So if someone surfs on to your website using a stolen Wi-Fi connection, are you aiding and abetting?

Enquiring minds need to know.

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Jobs Horns

Unfortunately the police 'already have'

They tracked it back to your IP. That's all they need. Look at all the random BS lawsuits from the recording industry, suing people who don't even own computers or had never downloaded music in their life.

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Black Helicopters

Is it public access?

At my house I leave no doubt. I have two access points (on two different channels), one at each end of my property. I have the SSID set to public-node-1 and public-node-2. I knowingly share with a co-worker across the street, and unknowingly share with whoever is in range. If anyone were to ever get in trouble with the law for using it I would go to their defense. Mind you that they are both behind a firewall and separated from the rest of my network. I think everyone should take this stance and end this silliness once and for all.

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Anonymous Coward

Who would you ask?

"There is no practical way to obtain explicit permission other than that it is open.

Well, you could ask?"

Who would Jeffypoo ask? He has a network 'linksys', 'joblepoble' or something showing on his computer, whose is it? Who does he ask? Which room? Which building?

Even when I was at a Cafe with a sign saying 'public WiFi point', I had no way of knowing which of the 7 networks in the list was it's, (they said it was a linksys, so I picked one of the 3 linksys ones with the strongest signal). I'm guessing I got the right one because it let me connect, but even in that clear cut situation I don't know it for sure.

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50% of computer users

don't know what the backspace key does in a WP/text application and use a combination of mouse, right cursor and delete keys EVEN THOUGH THEIR HUSBAND HAS TOLD THEM A MILLION FUCKING TIMES.

The study was carried out in our household, across equal numbers of both gender.

The maximum margin of sampling error is less than 0.000000000001%.

Another study amongst the same population reveals that the other 50% are always wrong, and should just leave them alone and let them get on with it their way.

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Anonymous Coward

If you are going to do something dodgy over WiFi ...

then bear in mind that a typical access point logs the MAC address (hardware address) of anything that connects to it. However, you can get hardware that lets you change the MAC address to anything you want. For example, I think you could use an EW-7206APg in client mode.

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RE: All that now needs to happen

"Is to track down that 54% of people who answered the Sophos questionnaire as 'Yes' and imprison them. 302 evil, devil-loving scum removed from the streets."

Providing of course that there are actually 302 prison spaces left that week :-P

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joe
Mars

WEP

Not to mention that WEP is used a lot on wireless networks and it can be cracked in less than 5 minutes.

WPA / WPA2 with a random password of at least 20 characters is a good way to secure your network.

These people that got caught most likely got caught red handed, lets face it, do you really think that the police have the time, resources and experience to track down someone who accessed an open network?

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Boffin

@Stealing?

I honestly can't see how a charge of 'stealing' can possibly hold up in court in most non-malicious cases ...

1. The 'victim' of the crime is broadcasting an RF signal into the home of the 'perpetrator' on a shared public frequency.

2. The base station is configured to NOT encrypt the data transmitted on the RF signal, is configured to NOT require authentication (psk, radius, etc) or validate devices (mac filtering) when third party equipment detects the signal and (often automatically, based on highest signal strength) attempts to make a connection.

3. The transmitting equipment is often left configured with a default anonymous station identifier, making it impossible to associate the station with any particular private individual or company.

4. The 'victim's router has been configured to issue an IP address and gateway settings to any third party device from which it receives a DHCP request packet, thus OFFERING to route packets on behalf of the third party device to and from the internet.

... There are often arguments made comparing wi-fi connections with theft of physical objects and deliberate penetration of secured networks. I personally feel that these arguments only begin to become relevent when the 'unauthorised' user of an unsecured wireless network begins to impact its owner - whether through causing noticeable degradation of their available bandwidth (denial of service) or using their connection as an anonymiser for illicit purposes (fraud, copyright infringement, whatever).

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Flame

@Hong Kong hotel

Try looking for WiFi from any tall building and you will get the same result. I was with a client today on Brighton seafront. 8th floor of a 17 floor block. We were at the back (North) side of the block looking over Brighton... and had the choice of 29 networks!! Six of these were open. Some from cafes, but other will be home users.

So how can we tell the "Free WiFi" from the home user stuff?

The seafront also has a free network supplied by the businesses on the seafront. So how do I know I am not breaking the law there?

Comedy is that most laptops are setup to connect to the nearest WiFi network by default. I was with another client earlier in the day. Popped my laptop on the desk, and it booted up, and jumped straight onto the neighbour's network. Doesn't that mean Microsoft are "Aiding and abetting" by setting OS defaults like that?

When I pointed out what had happened... that client said "Oh - is that why we see those lads sitting on the wall with their laptops?". LoL!!! Turns out this is a favourite haunt for the guys from the local takeaway.

We all know that the law is an ass.... meanwhile we are stuck with a stupid law until there is a successful defence by an IT person with actual technical knowledge.

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Happy

@Ferry Boat

Imprison the 54% of people who ticked "yes". Brilliant!! I think we should get the police using this approach. Coppers with clipboards in the street:

"Have you ever committed a crime and gotten away with it?"

I bet you could get a whole bunch of people that way :-)

My opinions is that if it's open, it's an invitation. I know the law doesn't see it that way, but I reckon that's crazy. Regarding WEP, yes it might be weak, but the intention is obviously there so it can be considered "breaking and entering" really.

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@Stealing?

"I honestly can't see how a charge of 'stealing' can possibly hold up in court in most non-malicious cases"

Try telling that to Gregory Straszkiewicz: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/25/uk_war_driver_fined/

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Joke

Woops, must have read the title wrong

At first, I thought it said "Half of All Computer thieves are Wi-Fi users"

That would have been better.

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Flame

PC Plod's abilities (or lack thereof)

"do you really think that the police have the time, resources and experience to track down someone who accessed an open network?"

In my experience (in he USA), they don't have the time, resources, and experience to track down a 200kg man in an orange jumpsuit with "I am a bank robber" stenciled on it in letters 15cm tall, even if he was standing in the middle of City Hall at noon on a Tuesday.

On the other hand, they have no trouble at all tracking down people who drive cars which are incapable of going faster than 50 mph, and charge them with driving at 30 mph over the limit in a 55 mph zone, so long as the "criminal" is clearly unable to afford a competent defense attorney.

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Dan
Alien

If more than half of us are stealing...

Does that mean that each person who is running his own wireless network has, on average, more than one person stealing from him? Or are there some wireless networks that do not have non-stealing users?

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I am not a thief

I am not a thief. I occasionally use an unsecured WiFi access point, but this is not misuse or theft. In the real world if someone puts up a sign saying people can take as much fruit as they want from a shop for free, then it is not possible to charge anyone with theft, provided the sign was put up by the owner.

WiFi is no different. At a protocol level, every access point transmits an invitation for other devices to connect to it. If I accept the invitation then I am doing no wrong.

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Napoleon is back!!

Wasn't anyone paying attention? The UK is now a "guilty until proven innocent, and good luck with that" type of country. Helps to have a press with no morals or ethics to push that agenda. The police "investigate" someone, the press charges ahead to try, convict and sentence the person while being able to use their name and image as much as they want. Presto - guilty, and no courts required either!

Many countries are going that way these days, so it's not that much better elsewhere, unfortunately.

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Paris Hilton

I think wf-fi should be secured because.....

If someone downloaded child porn from your internet connection

the police would only have your IP address to go on...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/25/open_wi-fi_child_porn_case/

Lets say you have a wireless router and your other half uses a laptop

only to access ebay, email, mums chat sites via wi-fi in another room.

Main PC is hard wired to the router

When exactly would you know that someone else is accessing your

network.... My router doesn't suddenly alert me to bandwidth theft.

My network is secure.... But we live on a remote farm and sometimes

there are cars that use one of our access roads to avoid being done

for drunk driving. We tried closing the gates and the locks were smashed.

I am not going to sit outside my place all day looking for freeking wi-fi theives.

This shit happens, when will people wake up and secure their connections?

Probably never ! ! ! ! !

If Paris Hilton were to drive up and knock on the door, I would set the dogs on her !

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Upsidedownternet to the rescue

Instead of locking everything up tight, just do like the fellow who ran his WiFi connection open with Squid. Process all of the images to be upside-down, or redirect everything to KittenWar. Do a web search and pull a joke on someone!

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hmm

A few friends of mine got a wifi network for their house a couple of years ago, I told them that if they got me pint, I'd come round and sort out their security and firewalls etc. A few weeks later, one of them mentioned that their access point's SSID had been renamed to "youve bin hacked". I told them to call the police and report it as crime, I pointed out that if someone had downloaded anything dodgy or stolen their IDs, they would at least be able to point to a case "in progress", I also said that the police would probably do nothing. Needless to say, this is also what my friends did. fortionately it looks like they got away with it, although I'd of been looking for the scrote that did it.

It should be noted that the vast majority of broadband contracts explicitly state that you are not allowed to share your bandwidth at all. ever. You shouldn't leave your access point unsecured.

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Not stealing

If an access point is open you arn't stealing anything. a) how are you supposed to tell whether it was intentionally left open or not b) if it has an ssid and is open then they are advertising for you to connect.

Its the same as putting up a shop sign and opening the doors and then complaining that people are trespassing!

Having WEP even though it is crackable in minutes at least tells people that they shouldn't be coming in. The basic fact though is that wifi is not secure even with WPA.

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Flame

What nonsense as any fule do know

What a ridiculous statistic! Unfortunately we hear this sort of garbage parroted every day because most people are so stupidly innumerate that they have no bloody idea what any sort of numbers mean. Magic beans anyone...

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Another crime against atatisics

"...extrapolating the results to every computer user in the country is probably a crime against statistics: so that's exactly what The Times has done.

...

...and if the person next to you has never stolen a Wi-Fi connection then we have to assume that you have."

Is it safe to assume that the last sentence of the article was included as another example of a crime against statistics?

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