Scott Hodge

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WiFi Theft

Jul 6, 2005
12 Comments

Question of the day:

Have you ever used an open WiFi signal that didn’t belong to you to go online and check email or browse the web?

A man in St. Petersburg, Florida was recently arrested for using an open WiFi connection from someone’s home.  Apparently, this is considered a third-degree felony and the guy is headed to a pretrial hearing.

Any idea what the police code is for this one?  "We’ve got an 802.11b…no, make that an 802.11g on Smith Avenue.  All units respond." 

I’m ready for some opinions on this one…


12 Responses to “WiFi Theft”

  1. Betsy says:

    Yikes. That is very common… I know Martin’s done it before.
    It seems like it shouldn’t be a third class felony: the punishment should fit the crime. Another case of the law not caught up with technology. Obviously, “unauthorized access to a computer network” is much more severe when you’re hacking into a company’s mainframe. When you’re just hopping on their WiFi to check email, it’s not that big of a deal. (When, however, you access their home computer via their WiFi network… then you’re dealing with something more serious.)

  2. Jim says:

    This is an interesting concept. WiFi is a growing technology, and many are relying on it more and more in public places like Starbucks, and obviously sharing is the intent there. As far as stealing wifi from an office or a home, it seems that if you have the technology, you need to take the time and effort to secure it if you don’t intend to share it.
    I am quasi-wireless at home, but I need a better router, I can’t get a signal at the other end of my house unless I stand on my bed and hold my laptop over my head, which doesn’t allow for much productivity. Knowing this, I have not taken the effort to secure my network, but there’s no exposure. At some point, I will buy a better router(I got my eye on what I want already) then for sure lock everything down.
    Who’s at fault when you leave your keys in your car in a parking lot and it gets stolen, you or the thief? Probably a shared responsibility.

  3. Kris Barger says:

    I think that is sad. Either WEP it or plan on people using it. I have done this before plenty of times.

  4. matt says:

    It seems to me that this is the equivalent of me walking by a house and seeing a book in the front yard. I stop, pick it up and begin to read it. Later I find out that the neighbor across the street left their book out there and forgot to bring it inside. When they tell me this, I give them their book back and drive off, but they call the police and have me arrested on felony charges. STUPID- I hope it gets thrown out of court.
    I’ve borrowed (not stolen) WiFi, so I guess I’m a felon too?

  5. kevin says:

    I think this is completely crazy. I agree with everyone else that this is the responsibility of the owner to secure his network. Otherwise it is open access. I don’t know about you, but my computer detects WiFi networks and won’t let me connect unless they are open. So I blame my computer. He must be the felon.

  6. kevin says:

    I think this is completely crazy. I agree with everyone else that this is the responsibility of the owner to secure his network. Otherwise it is open access. I don’t know about you, but my computer detects WiFi networks and won’t let me connect unless they are open. So I blame my computer. He must be the felon.

  7. abefroeman says:

    Smith did not go into Dinon’s house to use or steal the Wi Fi signal, The signal came into Smith’s car or house. Therefore Smith is free to use it. This is ridiculous and is more a matter of someone sittin outside the house than stealing wifi

  8. JohnK says:

    I’ve noticed that practically all of the news articles warning against stealing wifi always refer to either the florida guy or the two dudes busted for stealing credit card numbers off of a Lowe’s wifi (http://www.securityfocus.com/news/8835) BTW, the term wardriver simply means to drive around seeing what networks are present. However, the media usually takes the term and uses it to refer to people actually stealing net access or hacking into wifi networked computers.
    In both cases, the perpetrators in question were parked in a car in close proximity to their target. Benjamin parked in front of Dinon’s house to use the damn network for three hours. Furthermore, if you read up a bit on this case from other news sources, Dinon had noticed the dude closing the lid of his laptop whenever he came out to take his garbage. Dinon wasn’t as concerned about his wifi signal being used as to whether it was being used to commit a crime.
    As for the Lowe’s case, Botbyl and some other dude in the car had been continously returning to the store’s parking lot for at least 2-3 weeks at 11 PM to do their evil deeds on the store’s network. If you want to know more about this and other wifi theft cases, refer to the link at the end of this rant.
    Even when I’ve managed to find news articles that used other cases besides these two, it’s always boiled down to this:
    1) The person was visually observed in front of the target’s site using the wifi network. C’mon ppl, if you do this, you are guaranteed to get caught, especially if you park in front of some dude’s house for 3 friggin hours or in some parking lot at 11 PM. It doesn’t take great technical skill to track people in this category. Hell I’d call the cops on somebody parked in front of my house for hours on end, laptop or none.
    2) When the person was sitting in their own house and were caught, they were doing additional illegal stuff like fraud, bank hacking, etc. You should see how a few of these idiots were caught, like one guy ordering porno services through a neighbor’s apartment wifi and then sending the items to his own address. Check out the article in the link about Tereschuk, that one’s a hoot and holler.
    3) I have yet to hear of a single case where somebody got busted for stealing wifi merely to hit websites/check email and they were in their own place. I’d be alot more amazed if the wifi thief was in their own place and they were busted due to radio signal tracking.
    Here is a sticky note in a web forum full of wifi theft cases. Notice that not a single one refers to tracking down someone’s wifi signal origin. I wonder how many of the anti-wifi theft people (which comprises 99% of them) in that forum have never stolen a wifi signal themselves. As one Salon.com writer put it, every techie he knows will say one should not steal a wifi signal and yet they all do it anyway.

  9. JohnK says:

    Damn whole link won’t show up, just goto netstumbler.org, go to their forum and lookup their thread “WiFi Hacking == goto Jail” Just a bunch of articles to scare people, that’s all it is.

  10. Canadian Wi-Fi Theft a Media Non-Event

    Last week the OPP charged a man in Morrisburg, Ontario for what appears to have been theft of wi-fi. (Sparse) Details in my post on the topic (and see Glenn Fleishmans take here).
    What surprises me about the story is the lack of Canadian mainst…

  11. nhattruong says:

    I think that is sad. Either WEP it or plan on people using it. I have done this before plenty of times.
    ———————————————
    tuyen dung | viec lam | tim viec

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