Thursday, October 06, 2005

Just borrowing your tools - Theft of neighbors WiFi

The other day something came up in a question where someone couldn't use their WiFi that is a particularly large pet peeve of mine. I get a call asking for help getting their laptop on the net. Seems they could see the network, just not get online. So typical me, I start asking the standard questions on their network settings, drivers, location to the Access Point, etc...And just like half of the people out there, they were aloof on most of the answers. Why? Because they were 'borrowing' the service from their neighbor. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, I did a little looking on the subject, as this is something I have discussed but never researched. Seems that there are laws in some states that call this Unlawful Access to a Computer Network, legal speak for Hacking. In July of this year in Tampa a guy was arrested while parked in front of someone's house for hours using the wireless network.

"It's their own fault, they should secure it!" I hate when people use that argument on this. Just because someone leaves their front door open doesn't mean you are invited in, so why would an "open" wireless router be any different? Yes, people should take steps to secure what is theirs, but come on people!!!!! Stealing is bad. I grew up in a small town with keys in my car and the front door never locked. Still today go to my mom's house and enter through the garage side door. Life was good then. Now I feel I need security from my days in the Air Force in order to feel safe in my own home. Car jackers, home invaders, and now wardrivers (cute name for those who drive around town looking for open wireless networks)

So how do we solve the problem? From my side, it is three steps:

  1. Secure your own domain - if you want your neighbor on the system, then tell them the secret code
  2. Work with your community to build public hot spots so people can get on the internet at libraries, schools, parks and other common areas - the internet is a door that should not be locked to those who cannot afford access
  3. Don't do it, just don't steal - not that hard if you think about "do unto your neighbor"
So yes, it is illegal, immoral and impossible to stop people from doing this. However, if we all work toward the solution then being part of the problem should be a part of the past, just like the modem port on your PC which just doesn't get used anymore.

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