back to article Broadbandit nabbed in Wi-Fi bust

A laptop user was collared by police community support officers in west London yesterday for allegedly pilfering someone else's Wi-Fi. Local rag The Richmond and Twickenham Times reports that the 39-year-old man was spotted on Tuesday morning working outside a house in Prebend Gardens, in leafy Chiswick. After admitting using …

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This Law is Completely Re-dick-ularse

I'm sure my fellow Brit's are now sleeping soundly at night knowing that their WiFi Networks and bandwidth are being protected by the Gestapo. Didn't we fight a war 60 odd years ago over perversions like this?

These are the types of law's that make the UK government look uneducated and behind the times with regards to technology. The country's legal system is stuck in the 18th Century - if the doddering 85 year old judge who's half deaf with a serious case of piles and gout doesn't understand it (which he won't), then it's "off to the gallows with you".

If you have not taken adequate measures to ensure the security of the transmission, then it implies that you don't care about the security of the signal. It would take someone with only a limited amount of Tech Savvy to laugh this one out of court.

I saw the light and left that bloody country 20 years ago because of BS like this.

What's next? Arresting some for wearing a loud shirt in a built up area?

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In Corfu ....

town all of the WiFi networks are Open and unsecured. When I asked a local why this was, he replied that it was "normal" for them to share their resource like that for the good of everyone.

Moving swiftly across to our particular Police State and see that we can't even give away our bandwidth if we wanted to. Did the local Nazis even bother asking the person who's wireless network it was whether or not they minded.

Reminds me of the story in yesterday's paper where a father who's 21-year old son was beaten to a pulp by a local yob was told to write to his MP rather than bother the local Plod.

Gives yer that right warm feeling, dunnit?

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Priorities

What a warped sense of priorities. Kick the crap out of someone on a Friday night and get an £80 on the spot fixed penalty (as seen on TV so it must be true); pilfer a bit of bandwidth and get marched off to the station for a serious investigation.

I'm surprised the PCSOs even noticed; round here they are only seen standing in groups of 5 or 6 outside the local shopping centre having a cosy chat.

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Anonymous Coward

Dishonest access *and* intent to avoid payment?

The relevent part of the Communications Act 2003 goes:-

"Offences relating to networks and services

125 Dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services

(1) 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 he would have to have gained access dishonestly (which is worth arguing about if the wifi access was unsecured) *and* intended to avoid applicable payment (which is difficult if the wifi access was unsecured; ie free to all).

The CPS ought to be a bit wary of prosecuting him if he seems able to afford a court case.

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Bronze badge

Some real idiots here.

If I leave my door unlocked (by accident or on purpose) this does not give you the right to enter my property and sit on my couch or even use my phone to call 0800 numbers. I am quite positive that those people who are comparing an open wireless network to an open house would not be happy if they came home to find someone in their house watching really dodgy porn on their DVD/TV. So stop talking BS that its ok to use another persons network because there is no lock on it. Or leave your front door open so that I can come round and help myself to your facilities, you don't have a problem with this - remember.

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Anonymous Coward

Just dishonest access.

"(b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service"

Did the man with the open router charge for the service? I don't think so, and leaving his router free to use indicates no charge. That doesn't seem to prevent prosecution, they just look for someone along the route that DOES charge and use that instead.

"If I leave my door unlocked (by accident or on purpose) this does not give you the right to enter my property "

If I knock on the door and ask to come in, and you give me permission I can enter. His computer asked and his computer was given permission. He can't tell the difference between WiFi intentionally free and unintentially free. Just like his mobile phone asks to use Vodaphone roaming and is given permission, he doesn't have a special contract with Vodaphone, he just assumes it's OK because Vodaphone's router lets him connect.

Would it be OK to lock up every delivery men?

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Anonymous Coward

Title

Anon: If it doesn't have a lock on it (encryption) and doesn't have a keep out sign SSID=BuggerOff

That's a disturbing coincidence, have you been wardriving in my area? At least my SSID makes a change from all the SKYxxxxx / WANADOO-xxxxxx crap that is clogging up the channels.

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So what about people who do secure their wi-fi?!

@William: Do/would you leave your wireless network unsecured? Or even your front door open? If so, I'm popping round to watch your Debbie Does Dallas DVD! :-P

This is a stupid, poorly thought law - I worked in central government for a few years, and many of them (ie. usually the ones in power) have no clue about technology whatsoever. How anyone can advocate ignoring security functionality/features on a device which can be publicly visible must be a moron. It's just licence to be lazy and careless. Oh, and no wonder identity fraud and debit/credit card fraud is so high in the UK!!!

Even worse than an unsecured wireless router is an unsecured wireless router with the factory-default administrator username and password!!!

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Injection...

"Would an unsuspecting user who connected to a rogue open router realize that when they clicked their bookmark for GMail, it displayed http://mail.googlie.com instead of https://mail.google.com?"

An attacker wouldn't even need to redirect the user like that - if they connect through the attacker's equipment then any request the user makes can be misrepresented as whatever the hell the attacker likes - mail.google.com can be a fake-but-otherwise-identical page hosted on the attacker's own machine, which stores login details and then uses those details to return the real page from google.

The computer-illiterate consultants at my (UK local government)workplace are currently engaged in a project to get wireless access enabled across the organisation - this was originally disabled as it was correctly deemed impossible to ensure the security of our data when connected to an external network. As ever in local government, the popularity/political vote won out over common sense, so if you live in the UK you may want to check on YOUR local government's policy regarding public network access - they're only too happy to trade the security of your personal data for the marginal political gain of allowing staff the convenience of connecting to unsecured networks in public places.

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Anonymous Coward

Legal Situation

Looking at the Communications Act - section 125 states:

"(1) 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 the question here is all about intent. If your laptop is set to access your wireless at home, and its SSID is NETGEAR, then opening up your laptop near someone's house (say working in the park) and being automatically connected to someone elses NETGEAR access point is likely to not be an offence. there was no intent.

However, deliberately targeting a wireless access point in someone's house, might be seen as 'dishonest intent'. Of course, all bets are off if you sit in a place where you might expect a free hotspot (such as a cafe) and pick up a not-free one across the road in someone's flat with a non-obvious name.

Advice to people wanting free access? Choose AP's with common 'default' names so you can claim you didn't mean to connect. Sit somewhere you could claim to expect free access (cafe, bus station etc). Oh, and don't do anything suspicious like MAC address spoofing, WEP hacking etc :)

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BOFH to the rescue

Now all we need to do is to some how bribe/get the number 1 BOFH to work in central government. Sure some tax dollars would be spent on computer parts for him, but you wouldn't get bad tech laws passed (He would block them by killing relevant emails and such...).

Even though I don't live in the UK I feel aghast at seeing this law. Even though we have one of the stupidest leaders of all time (see No Child Left Behind), I don't think we have that many overly outrageous tech laws (if I am wrong let me know, I might be breaking a few). I always make sure I encrypt my network with WPA though I don't hide the SSID (any script kitty with a brain can see hidden SSIDs).

Oh yes and I've seen so many unsecured routers with factory-default passwords and logins. I so should "help" them encrypt their network, don't you agree?

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@ Dave

Actually, no. The access point is connected to the modem/router with nothing in between. The rest of the network is behind a hardware firewall between it and the modem/router including a further access point with MAC filtering and WEP.

I figure that if anyone with the skills wants to get in then they will, so I don't go overboard on protection, I am not the paranoid type.

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Anonymous Coward

Easy to unintentionally grab an open connection.

I work as a contractor, when working away from home I try and find a B&B with internet access so I can catch up on emails etc. and stay in touch with home via VOIP if connection is up to it.

In one B&B, after a few days I happened to mention to the owner that the wifi connection was of low strength - his reply - "We have no wifi, I'm an ex BT engineer, it is all cabled in".

....I had been using his neighbours connection.

My PC was set up to only log on to a wireless network with my approval, however with this one, because the name was not an obvious default i.e. NOT Netgear, Belkin etc but a name (the type of name you would give to a pet rather than a person) and it was unsecured I approved it. As the B&B owners had lots of pets I just assumed the router I had detected was named after one of their dogs and so used it thinking they were providing it..

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Anonymous Coward

Analogy

Screw the door on the house analogy:

1. Having Internet access is like having a private party with beer kegs at your house

2. Having WIFI is like having the same party, but out on your porch

3. Not using encryption is like leaving the porch gate open

4. Having your router broadcast your SSID is like hiring someone to stand on your porch with a megaphone telling people there is a party with beer

5. Having DHCP assign addresses to anyone who asks is like hiring a door man to let everyone in and give them name tags and telling them to drink as much as they want.

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@analogy

hmmm

1). being a women

2). wearing a dress

3). wearing high heels

4). wearing a short skirt

5). asking to be raped.

Don't blame the victim. Some people don't understand how to set these things up, don't blame them. So if you are mugged, its your fault for carry an mp3 player, cellphone and wallet

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*Chucks another analogy into the mix (and ducks)

(from Slashdot) Reader 4e617474 fired the next volley in this battle of analogies:

>> So the router is "visible," with an option to make it invisible. Big deal. My garden is visible from the street, but I can put a tarp around it to obscure its existence. What you are saying is that, unless I put a tarp up around my garden, everyone has a right to use it.

No, actually we're saying that if your garden pelts us with carrots and peas as we walk past on the public street, we're at liberty to catch them and consume them. Only if you place anti-vegetable-flight netting around your garden (or stop planting vegetables that lend themselves to comparison to an unsecured WAP) does it become incumbent upon us to behave as good citizens.

Hey! Analogies are fun! Somebody compare Internet privacy law to hunting and fishing licenses!

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Not so fast, goes an argument exemplified in another comment from R2.0:

(again, via slashdot around this time last year... http://backslash.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/28/187219 )

Yes, the computer is "asking" the router "permission," and the router is "granting permission" — the only problem is, the words we use to describe these actions may appear to be descriptive of thinking and volition, but they really mean neither. Computers and routers simply CANNOT give "permission" in any legal or moral sense.

To use the yard analogy that seems to be popular for these threads, lets supposed your neighbor's massively retarded child asks your massively retarded child for permission for his Daddy to use your yard, and your child agrees. Neighbor then comes over and stages a cookout on your lawn, or for that matter just walks across it.

When you confront him, he says "But my kid asked your kid, and he said yes." This is binding? Common sense and the law would say no, yet you would allow devices with an order of magnitude less analytical power than a retarded child to give and receive similar permissions.

Repeat after me folks: devices cannot give and receive permission for human actions without those permissions expressly being granted via some other means.

A traffic light doesn't give you permission to cross the street; the government (that you studied to get your license) gives you permission to cross the intersection when a light is green, and denies it when red.

Your ID badge doesn't ask permission to enter your building, and the security system doesn't grant permission; YOU ask for permission by presenting the badge, and your employer grants it by programming said system to accept your request.

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While I'm here I'll post another slashdot gem from the same era :)

Re:Enough with the analogies!

(Score:5, Funny)

by PCM2 (4486) on Friday July 28, @03:57PM (#15801475)

(http://neilmcallister.com/)

Your analogy misses the point entirely.

The situation the GP was describing is a more like trying to sell yak's milk in a Bavarian beer garden. You can bring as many Nepalese sherpas as you want, each with their own entry visas, and the yak might clear customs, but unless the milk is pasteurized you're still going to run into problems. And who's to say the Germans have a taste for yak's milk anyway? It's shortsighted thinking like this that leads to posts like yours.

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