back to article US Wi-Fi piggybacking won't put you in pokey

A US politician who tried to make Wi-Fi piggybacking punishable with three years in jail looks set to have his proposed bill overturned. Maryland-based LeRoy Myers proposed in the bill, heard last week, that those who used others' Wi-Fi connections without permission should face up to 36 months behind bars plus a fine of up to $ …

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Silver badge

Finally!

"users not wanting random punters to use their bandwidth should just secure the connection in the first place"

Finally someone is making sense! Basically, they are saying "If you are too stupid/lazy to click a couple of button, tough shit if you get hijacked!"

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Flame

UK View: Tested in court?

Typo in the article asside, Police believe it is an offence, however the Communications Act 2003 as I read it states:

"a person who (a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communications service, and (b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service, is guilty of an offence".

So could one claim in their defence they were not intent on avoiding payment of a charge, since the muppet who left unsecured wifi had no intention of reselling or making money from providing such service.

Furthermore, where's the dishonesty? My computer finds an unsecured connection by default and uses it.

The authorities in the UK need to get up to speed bloody quickly on this and many many other electronic laws.

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How about turning it around

Make leaving your WiFi connection unsecured if you do not want others to use it an offence!

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Paris Hilton

its your own fault....

Blame the technology....

when you connect to a wireless network, your hardware REQUESTS an IP address. The wireless network then isues said IP address...therefore you asked for access and it gave you it. if you dont want people using your wireless secure it.

if sombody knockss on your dor and asks to come in, if ou do not know then would you let them in? i didn't think so.

again, blame the great unwashed... you but a wireless router, most by default come with wireles enabled with no security. the avarage idiot just plugs it in and plays. i suppose these people also leave downstairs windows open while they go out.

if they make it a criminal offence to use someones wireles network, then they will have to make sure that it is also made law that wireless equiptment comes pre-configured with WPA , with a randomly generated 128 bit key. with the default key on a sticker on the base of the unit. along with MAC filtering. make it so that you have to allow each device you want to connect..

if you then disable the security, then dont complain if someone piggybacks you..

paris, because she does not know how to keep things shut.....

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Silver badge

.... but it could get the WiFi owner locked up

Having read, over the weekend, about the american authorities (can't remember which one - there are so many) who is setting up honeypot servers to (en)trap porn surfers. I can't help wondering what would be the situation if an anonymous surfer, piggybacking on someone's WiFi tripped one of these sites. The only person who would/could get a kick-in the door would be the hapless WiFi owner.

They'd then have to use the "It wasn't me, it was someone else - I don't know who" defence, which is well known for it's failsafe rating in any law-abiding state (it's not that hard to type with your tongue in your cheek). This defence is obviously related to the old chestnut about stolen goods: "I didn't steal them, someone else must've put them in my living room".

Of course, in the pursuit of their investigations, it's quite possible that the cops find something even more worthy of their attention on the WiFi owners machine. Who said stupidity isn't a crime?

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about time

"users not wanting random punters to use their bandwidth should just secure the connection in the first place"

Its about time an unsecured wireless connection was considered an open invitation to use it. It's not difficult to secure a wireless connection, select the type of encryption, and type in a password, then enter that password once on your wireless device. Every router i have ever seen, has a nice, user friendly, web interface that practically walks you through the setup. Similar to an insurance company, a hard line should be taken. If you have made no attempt* to secure your connection, its your own fault if somebody steals it. Would you be surprised at somebody stealing your car if you'd left the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition? Nope, and your insurance company probably wouldn't be very understanding abouit it either.

*i say no attempt purposefully here, as someone breaking your security is very different to you not having any in the first place!

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Damn straight

My granny deserves everything she gets - silly cow should blatantly know all about the security settings on a wireless router! I mean come on, even for people who can only just manage to use a computer for emails, logging on to the router and setting up wifi encryption should be as obvious as closing a window...

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Stop

Let the punishment fit the crime

If someone has their own connection and mistakenly logs on to someone else's, then just slap them BOTH and let them go for wasting the authorities time.

Unless they were causing specific malicious harm (stealing ID's, surfing child porn, 2 girls 1 cup!), the requested punishment seems way too high. Let the specific instances determine the extent of the punishment. In my alternate reality where I am dictator of the world I would ban the thieves from using any online services or personal computing equipment for a year, then upon repeat offenses my ninjas would shave the offender's head and tattoo a list of their offenses onto it for all to see.

In any case, do we really need new laws for this? Someone takes something that is not theirs to take, and they know it then it's stealing. Whether it be a service or good, the theft is the same.

@Man Outraged

That is some whacked logic in your argument, but I'll argue on your level. The option to re-sell is denied by the unauthorized and hidden nature of the access (and probably service agreements) thus unless they declare to the "muppet" that they are taking the service they are still guilty.

- In my alternate reality where I am dictator of the world I would have my ninjas give you 50 lashings for suggesting such a thing.

@Dr. Mouse

How hard you have to work to steal something does not justify anything. Don't let the thief go because because the bars on the windows were not big enough, though the obligatory open handed smack to the owner is a recommendation.

- Another 50 lashings shall keep my ninjas in good shape!

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@ Mr Seagal

Yes, you have the point exactly, and someone else stated above, and herein lies the problem.

People don;t know what they're using, what they've bought or what its for and how important it is. A £3000 laptop is just as useless as a £300 desktop to people who don;'t know what a 802.11 draft n wireless USB dongle is, or people who go to PC World or Curry's to buy their computers.

Someone hit the nail on the head earlier, in that it should be the responsibility of the hardware company to enable security by default, and have clearer instructions on how to get the thing working. Too many wireless network setups involve pressing a button to match the MAC address, and other fiddly settings, which if failed three or four times the user just gives up and leaves it unsecured. This isn't intent, this is naiivety, and misunderstanding, cos on the BOX it says secured, so it must be right?

once we get to the point where WiFi is everywhere, and being on a local LAN means nothign more than being connected to the internet as a whole, then these laws won't even exist anymore, but until then, we're stuck.

Remember your average person needs a calculator to know what 6x9 is. With those people buying computers and wireless gear, is it any surprise that everyone leaves their security settings untouched and expect it to be fine?

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Silver badge

Theft?

If someone was nicked for using an unsecured connection but the owner of the kit didn't object to someone checking emails while waiting at a bus stop outside their home - where's the theft?

Guilty until proven innocent.

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Pirate

With great power comes great responsibility...

... so in response to Mr Seagal's argument about his poor old gran who can barely use her computer for email - she deserves no sympathy.

You wouldn't let the old dear drive a motorbike or a sports car - she might hurt someone else as well as herself. So why should you think it's ok to let her off with incompetence with another powerful machine, the computer?

If she gets infected with malware, she could be contributing to the spam problem, malware spreading, all sorts of electronic evils. If you want her to be able to use email and wifi, then you better flippin secure it if she can't.

I detect a hint of sarcasm in what you say, but the words are absolutely spot on. If she doesn't know enough about the power of the system she is using, then yes, she deserves everything she gets.

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my wireless security is...

a 50 ft patch cable, then again my house is small and the switch is centrally located.

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my wireless theft is...

If Chris iverson leaves a 50ft patch cable hanging out his window, across the lawn and up to the bus stop and I plug in to it to check my emails is THAT theft?!?

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RW
Coat

@ Chris Iverson

Mine's bigger than yours is: 75 ft.

House, too, I bet. In the immortal words of Berk Brethed's Opus the penguin, "pffffffffffffft!"

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Peg
Gates Horns

Power and responsibility

I adored my little grandmother, and if she could have (and would have) used a computer just for email and getting pics of the grandkids, I no more would have turned her loose with unsecured equipment than I would have popped her on skis and pushed her down a mountainside. If you have family members and/or friends who you know are at cyber risk, go ahead and point and laugh a bit (you know want to), but then offer to help out if you are able.

For the solidly stupid there is no cure, but the innocently ignorant can be educated.

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Anonymous Coward

what if i don't mind others using my broadband?

I leave the encryption and MAC address list thing switched off, and have named the network "HaveSome" - so that passers-by can use it if they want. sure if i notice someone camped outside i might change it, but for people using mobile nternet devices i don't mind if they use some of mine...

am i being really stupid?

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"stealing WiFi

If my neighbour leaves his porch light on and I stand in my drive reading the mail from my post-box is that theft of his light?

Think that would be ruled out of court so whats the difference??

Both the porch light (which is far too bright at a 500 Watt halogen) and his WiFi are forms of electromagnetic radiation, both cost him similar sums of money to provide, and both reach a similar 'usable" distance from his property.

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@bogsheet

Wouldn't you say that the hypothetical grandmother would be capable of handling a motorbike providing she had recently passed her test confirming that she has enough knowledge and skill to use it?

Similarly, if you agree that a test is necessary for a motorbike, and a PC is somehow more powerful than a motorbike, then a test is also needed before using a PC?

However, without such a test in existance, how can we reasonably expect everyone to know what their systems may be doing?

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Flame

@AC RE: Let the punishment fit the crime

If only you'd started to argue on my level of "whacked" arguments I may be just a little bit clearer.

Where's the dishonesty in allowing your laptop to connect to unsecured connections? As other posters argue, DHCP sends out an IP address request, the muppet's own equipment sends out an ACK with an IP address!

I sure hope you're not a public defender or anyone with any kind of legal training.

Yes, totally agree with everyone that the equipment manufacturers are perhaps negligent, but anyone finding themselves on a rap or even a caution for offence of connecting to an open gateway should press for a trial and find a good lawyer to end this nonsense right away.

Police just don't get the Act.

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Gates Horns

devils advocate

So if a connection is unsecured then the owner is impliedly consenting to anyone using it?

That's fine in the case of starbucks or public libraries where that's clearly the purpose. But possibly not if it's in residential context.

If your "Gran" has a problem with you using her open connection and you know/suspect she's not consenting and do it anyway, then you're being dishonest.

If you go straight from " the connection was open (the "open window") = consent" then that's a big leap of logic!

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Alert

Freeloaders!

Obviously you don't have a right to piggyback on my network, but if you do connect - can I then use your devices? Am I liable if you get hacked over my network? Am I liable if you hack someone over my network?

It's obviously a crime.

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joe

@ Barrie Shepherd:

@ Barrie Shepherd:

That has to be the best analogy that has been used yet! I must use that one myself sometime. Very good.

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@ Anonymous Coward

Quote

"what if i don't mind others using my broadband?

By Anonymous Coward

Posted Tuesday 25th March 2008 17:33 GMT

I leave the encryption and MAC address list thing switched off, and have named the network "HaveSome" - so that passers-by can use it if they want. sure if i notice someone camped outside i might change it, but for people using mobile nternet devices i don't mind if they use some of mine...

am i being really stupid?"

--------------

Yes! What if someone downloads some child porn or something using you ADSL/Cable. Who's door will the police be kicking in! Just being accused is enough to ruin someone's life.

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@Blame the technology....

"when you connect to a wireless network, your hardware REQUESTS an IP address. The wireless network then isues said IP address...therefore you asked for access and it gave you it. if you dont want people using your wireless secure it.

if sombody knockss on your dor and asks to come in, if ou do not know then would you let them in? i didn't think so."

But there's a big difference. If someone asks ME if they can come in, that's one thing. If someone presses the door-open button (which I don't have, but you get the idea) and the door opens then they DON'T have my permission to come in. A machine which mechanically controls access cannot give my permission for anything.

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Black Helicopters

Invading my space

If their damn radio waves encroach onto my property then I am gonna use it. And bring back the off-shore pirate radio too.

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@Alex

Yes you're right, the motorbike was a poor analogy, as indeed you have to pass a test to be allowed to ride one on the roads. So I will borrow Peg's better analogy of skiing instead. You don't have to pass a test to do that. Would you let your gran bomb off down the slopes on her own? Or would you help her to do it safely?

My argument isn't flawed, the analogy I used to illustrate it was. With a more appropriate analogy the argument still stands; computers have potential to do great evil as well as great good, and anyone who uses them without knowing anything about them and without securing them puts themselves and others at risk of bad things.

This is not the way it should be!

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