Friday, July 22, 2005

Should You Go To Jail For Connecting To Someone Else's Wireless Network?

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Should You Go To Jail For Connecting To Someone Else's Wireless Network?
Last week, we wrote about the Florida man who was arrested for unauthorized access when he connected to someone's home wireless network. Several of you wrote to comment on the case, and responses were close to evenly divided over whether it should be illegal to use a wireless network that's available and doesn't have any security mechanisms in place. Many said that by not enabling encryption or other security features that are built into every modern wireless access point, the network owner is knowingly making the network available to the public and it should not be illegal to connect to it.

Others said it doesn't matter - that the man who was arrested knew the network wasn't his and he didn't have permission to use it. Some pointed out that the defendant's actions (closing the laptop when confronted) indicated he was probably doing more than just "borrowing" an Internet connection - that he may have been trying to access the files on the other computers on the wireless network, or downloading illegal material from the Internet.

A few of you said it's the fault of the WAP vendors for not making wireless transmissions encrypted by default, because many home users are not networking experts and don't know how to make their wireless networks secure.

To follow up a little more on the case, the Florida law under which the arrest was made carries a penalty that can range from probation to five years imprisonment. The prosecutors say they have confiscated the laptop and will base the sentence they seek on whether the man was just using the connection to surf the Internet for personal use, or connecting to the network to commit identity theft or some other illegal activity. We'll keep you posted when the case goes to trial.

Quote of the Week:
To enjoy the things we ought and to hate the things we ought has the greatest bearing on excellence of character. - Aristotle (384 B.C. - 322 B.C.)

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor
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