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MD Bill Would Criminalize Theft of Wireless Access 764

Posted by kdawson
from the blinking-zeros dept.
Pickens writes "A bill presented by Delegate LeRoy E. Myers Jr. to the Maryland House of Delegates would criminalize purposely surfing the Internet on someone else's wireless connection. The bill would make intentional unauthorized access to another person's computer, network, database, or software a misdemeanor with a penalty up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000. The Maryland public defender's office has submitted written testimony opposing the specific ban and penalty suggested in Myers' bill. Noting that wireless connections are becoming common in neighborhoods, the written testimony says: 'A more effective way to prevent unauthorized access would be for owners to secure their wireless networks with assistance where necessary from Internet service providers or vendors.'"
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MD Bill Would Criminalize Theft of Wireless Access

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  • by BorgCopyeditor (590345) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:08PM (#22809124)
    You say "no," but your router says "yes."
    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:23PM (#22809376)
      You say "no", but your window says "yes" - please, do mankind a favour and shut your curtains next time you undress!
    • by drooling-dog (189103) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @03:16PM (#22810204)

      You say "no," but your router says "yes."
      You were modded "funny", but that's quite literally what is taking place. Nobody's "stealing" anything; your router is being asked for permission, and it's not only granting it, it's assisting by providing an IP address for you to use and telling you where you might find a good DNS server or two.

      Now the owner of that router might say, "But I didn't know it was doing that on my behalf!" I suppose it's a little like coming home to find that your kid has been inviting people into your house who you'd rather not have there. But that's an issue to be settled between you and your errant kid, isn't it? Law enforcement generally isn't interested.

      Since there is no groundswell of outrage from people who are providing bandwidth to their neighbors - unwittingly or not - you have to assume that the "victims" here are the ISPs: Comcast, Time-Warner and the like. That guy who checks his email or the weather using "free" wireless is, in their eyes, $50 a month in lost revenue. Not that they could possibly influence legislators in a state like Maryland, of course...
      • by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc,famine&gmail,com> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @04:49PM (#22811680) Homepage Journal
        Thank you. No, really. The more people who hear this and who actually understand it the better.

        I will never, EVER understand how the following counts as "stealing wireless access":

        1) I broadcast my SSID. (Here's a wireless connection world! LOOK OVER HERE FOR IT!!!)
        2) User asks, "Can I connect?" (IP address requested.)
        3) I say, "Sure you can connect." (IP address loaned.)
        4) YOU STEAL MY WIRELESS!!!!!!!

        Ok, I guess I should do it as a car analogy:

        1) I put out a sign, "I will let you borrow my car."
        2) You ask, "Can I borrow your car?"
        3) I say, "Yes, and here are the keys."
        4) YOU STOLE MY CAR!!!!!

        There is no difference. If you think there is a difference, you are either stupid or ignorant, or trying to apologize for someone else who is either stupid or ignorant.

        If someone hacked into my wireless and used it, that's a crime. If someone stole my car, that's a crime. If someone asked to borrow my wireless and I let them, or my car and I let them, that's not a crime. If I'm either so socially ignorant or technically ignorant that I don't understand what I'm doing, then I need to suck it up when people do what I am INVITING them to do. And the rest of society should backhand me for complaining about it.
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @05:18PM (#22812038) Homepage
        Exactly. we have that kind of law here in Michigan. we recently had a man arrested for it and charged with a FELONY over checking his email OUTSIDE a coffee shop.

        This man's life is now ruined because of an asshole cop in Sparta, Michigan is so much of a useless jerk he pushed the issue hard. The mans was sitting in his car in front of a coffee shop wher ethe sign in the window said "FREE WIFI" the state court ruled he ony is allowed to get the free WIFI if he went inside.

        Anyone that does not fight this kind of law tooth and nail, and then does not try to burn the asshat that introduced it on a stake in the front of the capitol building deserved everything they get. The law is only there to protect cable, telco, and cellular company profits. it has no other use.

        Honestly the politicians at the local, state, and federal level need to be scared to hell of the populace. Because only then will they do the right thing instead of bending over and passing laws for the companies that pay them to do so.

  • by Panaqqa (927615) * on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:08PM (#22809126) Homepage
    ...after all, who is to determine whether someone purposely accessed the wireless connection. I know I have been in neighbourhoods where there were many wireless connections, and while I thought I was connecting through my host's access point, it turned out to be someone else's.

    So, who it going to determine whether the access was on purpose, or the more likely alternative, accidental?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CRCulver (715279)
      I'd hate to think that even the presence of aircrack-ng on your computer could damn you in court.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AvitarX (172628)
      Easy,

      If you ask for permission (DHCP Request) and the equipment says (to paraphrase) "absolutley, come on 0:0c:fa:a8:gc:bb hear is where I keep the gateway to the internet, I will make sure to send you data that comes for you, and direct any data you send to the correct place.", than absolutely the have permission.

      If you have to monkey around setting up static addressing, or finding keys or what not, than it enters a gray area.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gnasher719 (869701)

      So, who it going to determine whether the access was on purpose, or the more likely alternative, accidental?

      That would be a judge. I could think of some reasonable criteria: For example, if you have bought a wireless router at your home, then it is quite reasonable to think that you intended to use your router, and if you happened to use your neighbours router then this was likely to be by accident.

      On the other hand, if you are fifty miles away from home in your car with your laptop, and you connect to some wireless network without having anyone's permission, then we can assume that you intentionally accessed

  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:09PM (#22809150) Journal
    Yeah, and I suppose that sitting in someone else's light, or perhaps walking on their lawn should be criminalized too?

    Yes, we pay for the internet, but if you don't secure your network, and the pedestrian use doesn't impair your surfing experience... no harm, no foul. At least, thats what I think - but I'm still not running the world *sigh*
    • by pilgrim23 (716938) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:13PM (#22809222)
      just rememeber: Like your life, your fortune and your sacred honor, Wirless is not yours to share. You cannot share what you do not own. What, you think this is a free country or somethin?
    • by esocid (946821) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:19PM (#22809308) Journal
      I suppose if it were handled like trespassing then the owner of wireless LAN could request that you leave it, and call the "cyber police" if you don't. Wait, I guess they'd be calling the secret service? Or would it be the FBI?
    • by Itninja (937614)
      Yeah! When I leave my car unlocked & running on the side of the road (like an idiot), someone takes it, and then returns it later undamaged and with a full tank, the only reasonable response should be 'no harm no foul'. So what if they used it to commit a felony? No biggie...
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      "perhaps walking on their lawn should be criminalized too?"
      It is called trespassing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gnick (1211984)

      Yeah, and I suppose that sitting in someone else's light, or perhaps walking on their lawn should be criminalized too?
      Not really the same thing. This is more like, "I suppose that plugging my A/C into my neighbor's outdoor electrical outlet should be criminalized too? After all, he didn't put a lock-box over it."

      I pay for and use my bandwidth. If you start stealing it, you would certainly inconvenience me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I pay for and use my bandwidth. If you start stealing it, you would certainly inconvenience me.

        You're almost certainly paying a fixed rate for that internet and the amount you pay will be the same regardless of whether I plug into it or not. Neither of the analogies work well because they've each got a point. However, if you don't take a few trivial steps to secure your internet from illicit use, it's a very reasonable assumption for me to make that you're okay with me using it.

        I suppose that plugging my A/C into my neighbor's outdoor electrical outlet should be criminalized too? After all, he didn't put a lock-box over it.

        Honestly, I wouldn't mind if my neighbor used my electrical outlet as long as he wasn't using heavily and constantly. I

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HTH NE1 (675604)

      Yeah, and I suppose that sitting in someone else's light, or perhaps walking on their lawn should be criminalized too?

      How about listening to someone else's radio? I'm sure you could get the RIAA behind that one. And the MPAA for watching someone's Pay-Per-View movie through a window.

      They seem to go after the emitter if it can be received unaided but after the receiver if they have to take steps to see something invisible. You wear see-through clothing in public, you're arrested for indecent exposure. You use a night-vision camera to see through otherwise opaque clothing, you're arrested for being a peeping tom.

      So the poin

  • Stupid rednecks! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowskyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:09PM (#22809154) Homepage Journal
    It's funny, because, the most pre-eminent security guy in the USA, Bruce Schneir, who wrote THE book on cryptography, actually leaves his home WAP open so that people can squat on it. He thinks that if we all had our own open WAPS, we could all sorta squat on each other's wans, be much more effective as a society overall. Really, what this law is is an attempt to criminalize a culture of sharing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bobs666 (146801)
      I am betting its your friendly Phone Co. Monopoly Lobbing the House of Delegates, trying to make people pay them more cash.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:31PM (#22809506)
      Bruce also know how to lock down his shares, build vlans, segment networks, build captive portals, monitor traffic, etc. Joe Shmoe doesnt. The best advice for non-techies is to use WPA on their wireless.

      >Really, what this law is is an attempt to criminalize a culture of sharing.

      Yeah, its a big conspiracy d00d! The other day I tried to give someone a hoho and a police man shot at me!
      • by h3llfish (663057) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:43PM (#22809706)
        >> Yeah, its a big conspiracy d00d!

        Are you sure that it isn't? Ask yourself, why did the Maryland government feel a need to address this issue at all? Because they had been flooded by emails from constituents who were furious over their stolen bandwidth? Or because telcos/cablecos/ISPs realized how easy wireless makes it to share a connection with your neighbor? I can't say for sure either way, but I know which of the two groups has more pull with most politicians.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ADRA (37398)
      There's a big difference between "open by personal preference" and "open by ignorance". If you want to distinguish the two, write a layer for the WAP negotiation which also negotiates based on the 'rights' granted by the access point. So, if I get a dummy linksys access point with a default installation, the point could still be unencrypted for 'dummy' users but declare itself to be non-public. This would mean ethical Wifi leeches would only use access points that are intended for public sharing.

      This also m
  • by module0000 (882745) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:11PM (#22809178)
    ...in pre-XP windows, and pre-SP1 installations of XP.

    Yey, my OS breaks the law for me!
  • Non sequitur (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Palinchron (924876)

    The bill would make intentional unauthorized access to another person's computer, network, database, or software a misdemeanor with a penalty up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.
    And how does purposely surfing the Internet on someone else's wireless connection match that definition? After all, the open wireless access point I use to surf the internet explicitly authorized my access when I asked him about it.
  • Yeesh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:11PM (#22809190)
    Given how silently Windows is able to connect to a wireless network, I don't see how this law would last. Computer novices with brand new laptops will just turn them on and start surfing the net without having a clue about what an ISP is, how the internet work, or even how they are connecting to the internet. They know there is this thing called the "internet" and that when they click on the big blue "e", they are accessing the internet. Where do you draw the line between the innocent bystander and the criminal?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gnick (1211984)
      That's a really sticky point. But, that's the difference between "intentional unauthorized access" and "unintentional unauthorized access". So, the law does address that. The trick is, how do you determine intent?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by compro01 (777531)
        and how do you define "unauthorized access" even? network is open and allows you connect, so does that qualify as "authorized access" or not?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805)

      Where do you draw the line between the innocent bystander and the criminal?
      you can't look into people's heads so legally, I don't think there is a way to tell the difference. but really at what point are people obligated to actually learn about basic computing skills and stop being shielded because of their willful ignorance? it seems to be a common defense- but but I don't know that! could you imagine how that would work anywhere else? driving? work? taxes?
  • by suck_burners_rice (1258684) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:11PM (#22809196)
    The public defender is absolutely right. If you don't want other people surfing on your connection, it takes seriously five seconds to click a checkbox and enter a password on your router. If you leave your router open to all connections, that should legally mean that you desire to share your connection with others, since that is what will inevitably occur with such a setup. Leaving your router open like this is akin to bringing a box of donuts to work and leaving it open on the lunchroom tables.
  • I was searching for the humor in this, and then I got to the part about three years imprisonment . I guess that's funny in a sort "your grandmother just died, but when she did her false teeth exploded into the air, what a hoot" sort of dark way.
  • It's only a crime if they can prove you used the neighbor's wireless intentionally. My laptop loves to connect to random wireless connections instead of my own - hell, it tries to connect to wireless connections that aren't even there (such as the wireless at my workplace) instead of connecting to my home wireless first. How do you prove it wasn't intentional? How do they prove it was?
    • by vux984 (928602)
      If its got any security at all, even WEP, or even if broadcast ssid is off and you are on it, I can reasonably allege that you did it on purpose.

  • I don't think it's that funny. This is another example of an Orwellian society attempting to make everyone a criminal. I mean come on, THREE YEARS for doing something fairly innocent?

    This is outrageous.
  • Xohm? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vigmeister (1112659) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:13PM (#22809220)
    Not that I agree with the bill, but given that Sprint's WiMax is hitting Baltimore and DC, maybe Sprint has a vested interest in this bill being passed?

    http://www.xohm.com/ [xohm.com]

    Cheers!
  • by peipas (809350) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:14PM (#22809234)
    While they're at it, they should criminalize unauthorized looking at hotties, although accidental looking is fine. It is an important issue, because if too many people crowd around to look at the hottie it will not be able to move.
  • Ridiculous bill (Score:4, Informative)

    by esocid (946821) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:14PM (#22809238) Journal
    What a ridiculous premise. If people are stupid enough to leave their wireless routers open, then it's their fault if someone uses it. Secure your router or don't complain when someone hops onto it. The other ridiculous part of this bill is that it classifies accessing someone's computer a misdemeanor.

    According to the bill, intentional unauthorized access to another person's computer, network, database or software is a misdemeanor.
    But then goes on to say this:

    He said he didn't want unintentional use like that to be prosecuted the same as computer hacking.
    Doesn't computer hacking including unauthorized access to someone's computer? Sorry, but you lost me.
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:16PM (#22809268) Homepage Journal
    Stealing someone's internet bandwidth (their porn came down slower than usual!) is now worth up to three years in the slammer? I always thought wardriving was a silly little crime like jaywalking, not something on the order of grand theft auto. Why is the punishment so steep in that bill?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tgd (2822)
      The moral of the story is, make sure your iPhone is turned off while you're stealing cars... otherwise you might end up doing some real hard time.
  • by netsavior (627338) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:17PM (#22809280)
    My SSID is broadcasted as "FreeInternet" It is firewalled from my real network and unless it gets in the way of my gaming, I have no problem with whoever using my broadband. I have a "click here" to accept that you are not going to do anything illegal (via DNS intercept), mac addresses are logged, and most known methods of p2p are blocked... but if you need to check your google groups and you are near my house, why the heck would I care if you do so? It took like 2 hours to set that up. So would it still be illegal to knowingly use my "FreeInternet" network?
    • by BlowHole666 (1152399) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:34PM (#22809574)
      So what your saying is if the child molester outside looks at the kiddie porn in his car and he gets traced. Your fucked. All you have is a mac address, all the District attorney will say is you threw the computer out. There are things worse then p2p.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2008 @03:05PM (#22810074)
        Why does stuff like this get modded up? If someone downloads illegal material over your link, so what? The parent has already said that they block most p2p programs so the chance of this happening is pretty low. Besides, unless I'm wrong (IANAL) posession of said material is what is against the law. Does AT&T get charged with a crime when someone downloads illegal material over their network?
  • I just keep a few files there for friends and family, and I certainly never explicitly authorized anyone else to use it, but nothing stopped Google from scanning and indexing it too. Be careful of which search results you click on; you never know if I'm the kind of guy who would send some curious websurfer to jail for looking at pictures of my cat without my direct permission.
  • by Odiumjunkie (926074) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:18PM (#22809292) Journal
    Here in Toronto, Bell is already sending out wireless dsl routers with 128 bit WPA-PSK pre-configured, and the key printed on the base of the router. Hopefully, that'll soon be the norm everywhere.

    Once everyone is using WPA, this is a non-issue. Even if an exploit is discovered that makes cracking WPA trivial, breaking encryption on someone else's network is clearly illegal, and it will be safe to assume that any unencrypted network is intended for public access.

    I, for one, will not mourn the passing of a thousand light/water/keyhole/car-left-with-keys-in-ignition/radio/tv-through-window analogies.
  • by Mr Pippin (659094) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:19PM (#22809300)
    Yet, warrantless searches of my laptop is still perfectly reasonable, right?

    And it is also okay if a private company did something like this if government directed, too, right?

  • MS to Fix (Score:3, Funny)

    by Himring (646324) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:20PM (#22809338) Homepage Journal
    Hi,

    Microsoft is fixing unsecured wireless access just like they did viruses and spam.

    Thank you

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:24PM (#22809402)
    Telecommunications companies are asking for this bill because by criminalizing squatting, ppl are more likely to pay $$$ for their own connection.

    This benefits the very people who are demanding retroactive immunity for illegal domestic spying.
  • How many people leave their network names unchanged from the defaults? I don't think you can go into most neighborhoods and not find a "linksys" or "belkin54g" or something to that effect, especially one that's open.

    You know what Ayn Rand said about the government eventually having to make criminals, right?
  • by Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:26PM (#22809422)
    At least the public defender's office mentioned understands something of the nature of the thing. Unsecured WiFI APs are the "VCR flashing 12:00" for the 21st century, and the other half of the equation is how any WiFi interface will by default connect to the first AP it can do so with regardless of who ows it. Also how are they planning on differentiating between businesses and individuals that purposefully leave their APs open for customers or neighbors to use at will, are they planning to make them criminals as well? Stupid.
  • by Archonoid (1259662) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:36PM (#22809592)
    Caps as in the original bill, emphasis mine.

    "A person may not intentionally, willfully, and without
    authorization access, attempt to access, cause to be accessed, or exceed the person's
    authorized access to all or part of a computer network, computer control language,
    computer, computer software, computer system, computer services OTHER THAN
    WIRELESS INTERNET SERVICE
    , or computer database."

    "A PERSON MAY NOT INTENTIONALLY, WILLFULLY, AND
    WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION ACCESS, ATTEMPT TO ACCESS, CAUSE TO BE
    ACCESSED, OR EXCEED THE PERSON'S AUTHORIZED ACCESS TO WIRELESS
    INTERNET SERVICE WITH KNOWLEDGE THAT THE ACCESS IS UNAUTHORIZED
    AND PROHIBITED BY LAW.
    "

    As I'm reading this, it seems like the most reasonable interpretation of the bill is: 1. You need authorization EXCEPT for wireless internet service, 2. When using wireless internet service, you may not access the service if you know that it's unauthorized and prohibited by law. It doesn't actually prohibit the access itself, it provides the fines for doing so if another law has made that access illegal.

    Can any lawyers comment on this reading? Because it seems actually to be somewhat counter to the headline and summary, and actually somewhat benign.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Harin_Teb (1005123)
      not a lawyer, but as a law student I'll give it a go:

      It seems to me that the second bolded portion "with knowledge..." requires what is known as specific knowledge. In this case what it means is not that you have to know you are accessing another persons wireless internet even though you are unauthorized, but you also have to know that it is illegal to do so. This would require actual knowledge of the law, and not constructive knowledge. Since actual knowledge is pretty damn hard to prove I would guess th
    • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:02PM (#22813788) Journal

      IANAL, but I have been looking at this bill I have just come to the same realization that you have. Practically every post in this discussion has COMPLETELY misunderstood the bill.

      First, people need to read the actual proposed bill, which they can do here (NB: PDF). [state.md.us] Note that the CAPITAL parts are being ADDED to the existing law.

      Next, people need to understand that under existing Maryland law unauthorized access to a computer network is already illegal. This clearly includes wireless networks. This means that your iPhone / XP / Vista / whatever that automatically connects to an insecure network is technically breaking EXISTING law. The current law reads:

      A person may not intentionally, willfully, and without authorization access, attempt to access, cause to be accessed, or exceed the person's authorized access to all or part of a computer network, computer control language, computer, computer software, computer system, computer services, or computer database.

      This delegate wants to amend that section to exclude wireless internet access. It would instead read:

      A person may not intentionally, willfully, and without authorization access, attempt to access, cause to be accessed, or exceed the person's authorized access to all or part of a computer network, computer control language, computer, computer software, computer system, computer services OTHER THAN WIRELESS INTERNET SERVICE, or computer database.

      This would mean that your device that automatically connects to an insecure network would no longer be breaking the law. But in order to keep purposeful, intentional access to a wireless network (or "wireless internet service") illegal, they have added this section to the bill:

      (4) A PERSON MAY NOT INTENTIONALLY, WILLFULLY, AND WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION ACCESS, ATTEMPT TO ACCESS, CAUSE TO BE ACCESSED, OR EXCEED THE PERSON'S AUTHORIZED ACCESS TO WIRELESS INTERNET SERVICE WITH KNOWLEDGE THAT THE ACCESS IS UNAUTHORIZED AND PROHIBITED BY LAW.

      THIS PROPOSED BILL MAKES FEWER THINGS ILLEGAL. Now I know a lot of people think that unauthorized access to an insecure network, even when purposeful and intentional, shouldn't be illegal, but it already is. This bill would simply decriminalize unintentional unauthorized access.

      PLEASE, SOMEONE BEAT THE /. GROUPTHINK AND MOD THE PARENT POST UP, OR THIS ONE.

  • by pedrop357 (681672) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @02:57PM (#22809938)
    FTA:
    A Fox News story says the man parked his truck in front of the shop during lunch breaks and checked his e-mail on his laptop computer.

    When a nearby business owner got suspicious, police talked to the man and ruled out that he was spying or stalking someone. However, a prosecutor filed the charge of stealing the wireless connection, the story says.

    The charge was a felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

    His other choice was a jail diversion program, which involved paying a $400 fine, doing 40 hours of community service and being on probation for six months.


    Combining idiotic laws with the proliferation of access points, how can I prove that I'm using the (paid for) T-mobile access point at the Starbucks and not the business next door? The guy in the article may have admitted using the coffee shops inet access, but that doesn't show that there's not a bigger problem with laws like this.

    Before my laptop self destructed (heat issue), I had a Verizon phone card that I used all the time. In fact a few times when on-call, I would pull in to the nearest parking lot and do what I needed to do.
    If I had chosen to park in the parking lot near a coffee shop like this and the owner called the cops, how can I prove that I was using my own internet connection and not hijacking his? The few people who saw my Verizon card assumed it was a wifi card and had to be explained in depth how this wasn't wifi and would generally operate anywhere you could get a cell phone signal. I can only imagine explaining this to a cop.
  • by dpilot (134227) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @03:09PM (#22810114) Homepage Journal
    We need an equivalent of the locked door test for this. IIRC, criminal responsibility for intrusion changes based on whether or not the door is closed, and whether or not it is locked.

    In other words, if the door is open, it's reasonable to expect that perhaps the general public was invited in.
    If the door is closed, but not locked, it's still possible that the general public is invited in, they're just trying to keep the heat in or the flies out.
    If the door is closed and locked, clearly the general public is not invited in.

    As for the "default router settings are open" argument, that's kind of like saying "newly installed doors are unlocked." As for the "flashing 12:00:00" argument, if you aren't competent to lock your front door, there's a problem. Manufacturers of wireless equipment need to do a better job of explaining this. They need a BIG RED PAGE when you open the box, explaining how to do the basic security, and how if you don't, you could have legal problems because you're responsible for ALL access through that wireless connection. As far as I can see, the directions are very little past, "insert the Windows driver disk."

    By the way, so the instructions tell you as a minimum key to use your name, address, and phone number, and the street address for the SSID. Ain't much of a lock, is it? But it's is still most definitely a lock, and it takes deliberate action to open. No default-configured computer from anywhere will automatically crack even a trivial key and automatically make a connection.
  • by techmuse (160085) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @03:10PM (#22810140)
    iPhones automagically associate with open wifi access points. This would make everyone with an iPhone a criminal. How do you know which access points are intended for open use and which are not? Around here, many restaurants specifically offer free wifi to attract customers!
  • by urbanriot (924981) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @03:16PM (#22810220)
    I live downtown with a high capacity internet connection that I typically don't use to its full extent, so I've QoS'd everything to allow excess bandwidth I'm not using to be available to anyone who wants to connect to my wide open wireless internet. Many people use this, and I've also had some students and neighbors thank me for it... I've also heard of others doing the same and I've been to many coffee shops and other such places where they freely offer wireless internet.

    That being said, how will the end users know which networks are free to use, and which are ignorant people who can't configure technology (that they should know how to configure if they're going to try to use it)?

    This sounds more like large ISP's paying someone kickbacks to the people in charge to prevent people from using 'free' internet, than it does protecting the children.
  • THEFT of Wireless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scubamage (727538) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @03:29PM (#22810430)
    To me theft of wireless means that you're sitting there, snorting traffic and running a decryption utility to process packets and ascertain a WEP or WPA key. Not really hard to do, but still akin to breaking and entering since the owners have obviously chosen to close off the network. I don't see a problem with breaking into such a thing a crime.
    BUT if someone gets pressed for using an open wireless access point the owners are going to have to prove malicious intent especially since windows doesn't mind hopping from access point to access point.
  • Accidental? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by just_forget_it (947275) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @03:54PM (#22810830)
    In my apartment, I pick up 11 wireless networks (even though there are only 8 apartments surrounding me), two of which apparently were set up by numbskulls (i.e. not set up at all. They just plugged the router in and left their network name at the default "linksys") and were left unsecured. My Windows Vista laptop will automatically connect to one of those networks if my router happens to puke and lose connection. If I'm away from the computer when this happens, I don't even know what went on while I was away, and I could surf for hours using someone else's connection. If "hijacking" someone else's wireless is made a crime, buying a Windows Vista machine will be like buying a car that automatically robs bank vaults while you're away at work.

    This bill turns people into unwitting criminals because some people are idiotic enough not to protect their router, and Vista will automatically connect to these routers without asking. So, if it gets passed, the one question here is: if Vista forces me to break the law by automatically "hijacking" an unsecured wireless network, can Steve Ballmer be charged as an accessory to the crime?
  • Tresspassing signal! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pecosdave (536896) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @04:29PM (#22811370) Homepage Journal
    I would argue that my neighbors Wi-Fi signal was tresspassing into my home, therefore it was mine to use as it was on my property. If my neighbor had an apple tree haning over my fence any apples that fell on my side of the fence would be my fair game as well.
  • by bamwham (1211702) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @04:36PM (#22811480)
    A year ago 3 of 6 Wi-Fi setups I could get from my house were unsecured and could be used, although only one of them had a strong enough signal to be reliably useful. Now 1 of 10 are unsecured. I live in a poor neighborhood with many retired renters, it seems like if they are figuring out (or stumbling across) how to secure their router than anyone can.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @04:38PM (#22811514) Homepage
    If somebody has enabled their router to be open to all connections, THAT IS ALL THE AUTHORIZATION NEEDED. If my handheld sends a request for association with their router, and their router accepts my request, THAT IS ALL THE AUTHORIZATION NEEDED. If somebody leaves the door of their store open, I should expect to be able to enter the store. If they lock the door, then, that lets me know that I shouldn't enter.

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