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Old 10-24-2007, 02:55 PM   #1
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I once chastised a cruiser who was gleefully setting up his boat to be able to access anybody's unsecured wireless connection. He crowed about this free Wi-Fi to make overseas telephone calls from his boat for free. Though connecting to the internet via somebody else's wireless connection in order to get your emails and browe the Net might not slow down the legitimate user's own use of the connection, somebody making telephone calls off it will gobble plenty of bandwidth. My comment to this fellow was that technically he was stealing. His reply was "there's no law against it."

Well, I think that the time is coming when that kind of blatant overuse of another's wifi connection will be prosecuted. Here's an article from the November 6, 2007 issue of PC Magazine.

"Police are arresting those who connect to unsecured wireless networks. But is it really a crime to surf for free?

by Erik Rhey

Piggybacking on your neighbors Wi-Fi connection may seem like a victimless crime unworthy of punishment, but some officials beg to differ. In late August, the BBC reported that London police arrested a 39-year-old man for connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi network while standing outside the network owner's home. In the U.K., clear provisions such as the Communications Act 2003 and the Computer Misuse Act ban this practice. But here in the States, the laws are vaguer.

The closest the U.S. comes to outlawing Wi-Fi mooching is Title 18, Section 1030 of the U.S. Code, which prohibits "unauthorized access." According to Tracy Mitrano, director of information technology policy at Cornell University, there are three types of laws that courts use to try to prosecute Wi-Fi filchers: those dealing with trespassing, hacking, and creating counterfeit cable boxes.

"It's not a perfect fit," Mitrano says. "Trespass law was based on physical space. I don't think any of them successfully address the issue."

Often, state and local regulations are prosecuted in vastly different ways. In 2005, a Florida man was charged with a third-class felony for lurking outside a Tampa house with his laptop. And two men, one in Alaska and one in Michigan, were handed down fines for accessing free Wi-Fi hot spots from the street, instead of inside the walls of the business.

In 2006, the legislature of Westchester County, on the outskirts of New York City, became the first in the country to pass a law requiring businesses to secure their internal wireless networks. County Board Chair Bill Ryan says that the measure was put into place to protect both the data of local businesses and the personal information of employees.

Mitrano, like many others, feels the responsibility lies with users to secure their home or business networks. She warns against hindering wireless technology's progress through overlegislation.

"Thank goodness we don't live in a country where we are required to process all of our technology through federal and state governments—where it is not released until lawmakers are shown every intended and unintended use to establish a legal framework," she says. "We would throw ourselves back into the Stone Age if we did that.""

(here's link: <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)" target="_blank"><a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)" target="_blank">http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2193346,00.asp)</a></a></a></a></a></a></a></a>
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Old 10-24-2007, 05:43 PM   #2
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The problem is only likely to become truly apparent to the owner where high bandwith is required by the intruder eg video, gaming etc; voice is not a problem - even the original digital systems only needed 64 kb/sec with smarter technoloies giving good quality as low as 8kb/sec.

If anyone is daft enough not to secure their network, so be it. My laptop is set up to connect to my own wireless router but, if this not available it will offer the strongest available signal - if that's not secured, my assumption(!) is that it's consciously offered for free.

Let's hope that the powers that be (continue to) see it that way!
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Old 10-24-2007, 07:06 PM   #3
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Mitrano, like many others, feels the responsibility lies with users to secure their home or business networks. She warns against hindering wireless technology's progress through overlegislation.
With this I definately agree.

Would anyone consider building a house without putting a lock on the door? Of course not. Why then build a wirelss LAN without putting a lock on that door too?

I used to think differently, believing bandwidth theft to be just that - theft. Now I would go along with Peter in the asumption that if the network is not secured then it is for public access. Why? Well, think of this: if there is a place with an open network where the public is welcome to surf the internet free of charge, such as Faaborg harbour in Denmark, it is not regarded as theft. If, on the other hand, the public are not welcome to use that bandwidth then it is regarded as theft. As an innocent user, how can I know the difference? I know most places setting up public access networks will be putting in some form of notice that it is so but if there is no form of notice, saying either welcome or not, how is the user to know?

Be honest, if a person is computer savvy enough to set up a wireless LAN then the securing of that LAN should not be beyond the ken of that individual either.

I hope we will soon see the day when open wirless LANs can be found in cities all over the globe.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 10-25-2007, 12:49 PM   #4
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I am speaking as a computer/IT/networks/electronics person here, not a lawyer.

Anyone dumn enough to not secure their personal on board network against snoopers needs a good hard kick in the goolies. If they are connected to the internet, then that kick needs to be delivered with a good run up. If they also have personal data on their laptops, PCs, other devices connected to the network, and especially other people's wireless devices, then that kick needs to be delivered with a good long run up, a flying leap, and boots with big long steel spikes.

Honestly, folks, securing a wireless network these days is trivial. Most come secure out of the box, with the rest of them it's a matter of ticking a box on a form and providing a password. Land based wireless networks are routinely snooped by people "wardriving" or whatever the latest sport is and should always be secured against this, marine based networks should be no different.

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Old 10-25-2007, 03:58 PM   #5
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I found this article in P C World online. I have heard of another one where an off duty police officer noticed a person on a laptop in the parking lot of a coffee shop. Since the "free WI-FI" was intended for use by customers, the guy was arrested for stealing the wi-fi by way of not purchasing anything from the shop.

I live in a small enough town that I don't have to lock my door every time I leave the house. If you help yourself to my TV it is still stealing. I don't think a judge will rule in your favor because my door was unlocked.

I'll look for the article I mentioned above.

The Caseof The Stolen WI-FI

On April 21, Richard Dinon of St. Petersburg, Florida, called police after he saw Smith in a car on the street outside his house using a notebook computer. Smith, 40, was arrested and charged with a felony under a Florida law that prohibits unauthorized access to a computer or network, according to police. A pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 8. In July, a court in Isleworth convicted Straszkiewicz of using a laptop to access the Internet over unprotected residential wireless LANs on several occasions. He was fined 500 pounds (US$874 at the time) and got a 12-month conditional discharge.
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Old 10-25-2007, 05:32 PM   #6
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This is the story I refered to. I first saw this story the same day I was looking for a wifi spot to use a laptop.

I remembered reading in a post or a blog from JeanneP about her views on the subject. If it ain't yours don't take it. That stuck in my mind. Then I read this article.

There is more at the link below.

Michigan Man Arrested

A Michigan man is being prosecuted for using a cafe's free WiFi... from his car. Sam Peterson was arrested under a Michigan law barring access to anyone else's network without authorization, according to Michigan TV station WOOD. Since the cafe's WiFi network was reserved for customers, and Peterson never came into the cafe, he was essentially piggybacking off of the open network without authorization.

The arrest came about because Peterson apparently showed up to the Union Street Cafe to use its free WiFi from the comfort of his car, and he did so every single day. A police officer grew suspicious of Peterson and eventually questioned him as to what he was up to. Peterson, not realizing that what he was doing was (at least) ethically questionable, told the officer exactly what he was doing. "I knew that the Union Street had WiFi. I just went down and checked my e-mail and didn't see a problem with that," Peterson told a reporter.
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Old 10-25-2007, 06:28 PM   #7
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Nausika's point applies. How can one differentiate between something which is freely offered and something which isn't. If it's there and you can connect to it it's freely available; how was Peterson expected to know that it was anything but free? If, of course, you can prove that he knew that it wasn't ... but then you're into lawyer territory and we all know what happens then!

If a commercial enterprise really wants to protect its interests and still attract customers looking for a Wi-Fi connection, it can quite easily opt to supply a time limited pass code. Many cafes in England already do this; if you want more time than it takes to drink a cup of coffee, you pay!

What happens if a passer-by stands and listens to music being played in a cafe, watches a sports show or admires a display of flamenco dancing put on for the exclusive benefit of its patrons - all from the public sidewalk?

Breaking news! I've literally just picked up a news item which questions the rights of individuals to pick up satellite signals - mostly sports programs - broadcast to but "not intended" to be received in the UK. The mind cannot but boggle at the complexity of arguments on this one - I can only wonder if I was meant or authorised to hear this bit of news, whose air is it I'm breathing anyway? What about the sunset this evening? Was I watching it legally?

Riculous, I hear you say ... and you'd be absolutely right but, there again so am I!
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Old 10-25-2007, 09:36 PM   #8
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In my opinion, and I am not a lawyer, the legislation we have dates from a pre computer era and is difficult to apply in today's world. Of course this applies more in countries like England in which common law applies than in countries like South Africa or even Scotland which tend to rest more on Roman-Dutch law where legislation is written rather than implied by previous judgements.

Which ever way we twist and turn it the bottom line is that the law is out of date but there is an important legal principal at stake; that which says that it is better to free than condemn on the basis of inappropriate legislation or the lack of evidence. How does one prove that a person did not know that access to an open LAN was restricted? If it is restricted then why is it open? Duane has a point when he says that he does not need to lock his house to prove that someone is stealing but his house is surrounded by physical walls and whether or not the door is locked but the fact remains that there is still a door and a threshold. In cyber terms however, there is no exterior protection umless the LAN is locked.

Let's face facts. If someone sets up a network without restrictions then they deserve what they get - as Deltabel said, a kick in the Niagras! Come on people, we are sailors. Practical folks used to solving our own problems and not winging about someone "interfereing" with our cyberspace. You either lock it or loose it! Somewhere along the line we have to take responsibility for

our own actions!
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Old 10-26-2007, 03:39 AM   #9
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Come on people, we are sailors. Practical folks used to solving our own problems and not winging about someone "interfereing" with our cyberspace. You either lock it or loose it! Somewhere along the line we have to take responsibility for

our own actions!
But the networks that are being accessed are usually not another sailor's network, but rather a homeowner who just didn't see the need to secure his network. Perhaps his house is on waterfront property, too far from any neighbor to worry about their being able to access his wireless network. It's the boat that anchors nearby that gets on. Or it's an elderly widow who wants to have email and maybe Skype to stay connected with her children and grandchildren, and got enough equipment to accomplish this, but not enough equipment or guidance to secure it. (I know more than just a few of these!)

Or perhaps people in the US are lazier than those in other countries. This past summer, cruising from Finland, across Sweden, down the coast of Jutland, Denmark, swooping through Germany and slowing down again to enjoy the Dutch canals, what impressed me was that an unsecured home network was the exception. Free Wi-Fi was also the exception, even in most marinas.

The US might have more people connected to the Internet, but I don't think that the US has the most sophisticated computer users compared to comparable developed countries in Europe. What I see, though, are a lot of cruisers who know full well what wireless networks are set up for their use, and what networks are home networks that have failed to enable security. "McDonald's" wi-fi is fair game, "Judy's computer" shouldn't be. So you're smarter than Judy, does that mean you feel she's fair game?

Sorry, not everybody with sophisticated gear is sophisticated, whether it's a computer or a DVR, or a boat.

Still, you're right that people should secure their network. But I recoil from comments on the order of "(s)he was dumb, so got what (s)he deserved." Not appropriate, IMO.
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Old 10-26-2007, 05:55 AM   #10
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"McDonald's" wi-fi is fair game, "Judy's computer" shouldn't be. So you're smarter than Judy, does that mean you feel she's fair game?

Legally there is no difference whatsoever. Theft is theft.

My point, and as you know I have changed my opinion since we last had a similar debat, is that if you set up a wireless LAN then you secure it, unless you want people to have access. You should not have to of course but there again we should not need locks on our doors either.

Of course anyone should be able to guess that Judy's LAN is private but is the LAN in my local railway station private of not?

I live in a small but very IT aware town. There are probably more LANs here than inhabitants and probably 98% of them are secured. Just sitting here at my desk I see that there are 8 wireless LANS in range (not ncluding my own) and that 2 of them are unsecured. How then do I know if I am welcome to access those LANs or not?

This is a difficult one and I can see both sides of the story. I have a permanent 24-7 connection to the internet at 100Mbps. Most of the day I am at work, eating, sleeping etc. I use my connection maybe 2 hours per day, less on average. Why then should I not alow someone else to piggy-back onto this and use the bandwidth and time I don't? In fact, I don't do this of security reasons but if I did have an open access LAN then how would anyone accessinng it know that they have my approval? To do that I would need a log-on window telling people that it is ok and thet would be more complicated to set up than securing the LAN.

It is all very complex but legal or not, morally right or not, if you have an unsecured LAN you do not want to share then you are looking for trouble.
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Old 10-26-2007, 12:22 PM   #11
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Recoil away, Jeanne; very un-American! I can't imagine that anybody on this forum would suggest that it was in any way OK to rip off a little old lady or any other vulnerable party.

The real point here is the worrying percentage of our populations that appears unprepared for the possibility that someone else - by accident or design - might abuse their rights to sole enjoyment of their goods or contracted services and take little or no affirmative actions to prevent such intrusions.

I'd love to live somewhere where it didn't make sense to bolt my door, park my car under a street light and lock it, install firewalls, run anti-virus or SPAM ware, secure my wireless network whatever but, if I don't, I know that I'd be inviting trouble - albeit passively! For the good order, I'm not talking guns here, just simple precautions.

The difficulty we have in this world is finding the ways to identify and protect the weaker, less well informed elements of our society that actually need our help. Classically, we have achieved this by giving our children a strong moral code and backing this up with simple laws to deal with the more obvious transgressors, recidivists.

For whatever reason the balance between these two controls now seems to have shifted dramatically away from personal responsibility and common decency towards a cumbersome, innappropriate and virtually impossible to implement legislature which is often anachronistic and so concerned about getting it right that it frequently gets it completely wrong thereby failing those it was meant tp protect.

My ranting and raving aside, rather than make new laws on wireless security - or try and adapt old ones - mavbe we should just lobby Microsoft et al to make their installation routines default to security enabled rather than public with a strong(er) warning about the consequences of the latter - come to think of it, we could also ask them to build in proper security at source etc etc!!!

Just wish we were doing this over a beer or a glass of wine but it's not even lunchtime yet!
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Old 10-26-2007, 06:01 PM   #12
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I would like to meet the person that freeloaded on someone elses Wi-Fi and didn't know they were using something that didn't belong to them.

You don't take a car because it is in front of your house with the motor running. I hope!

All the rabit trails just to justify using someone elses signial.

LOL
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Old 10-27-2007, 07:51 AM   #13
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I would like to meet the person that freeloaded on someone elses Wi-Fi and didn't know they were using something that didn't belong to them.
I don't really think it is a question of not knowing that the LAN and bandwidth does not belong to them but more a question of not knowing if the LAN owner has, by creating an unsecured network, intentionally consented to others accessing the internet via that LAN.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 10-27-2007, 07:56 AM   #14
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You don't take a car because it is in front of your house with the motor running. I hope!
No. You are right, I would not but there are many who would.

My advice is neither to leave your car unlocked with the motor running or to leave your wireless LAN unsecured unless you want to loose both. This is not a perfect world!

Aye // Stephen
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