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#1
Old 04-13-2005, 08:48 PM
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Is using someone else's wireless network illegal?

We just got a new laptop, but no Internet for it yet. Then when we tried searching for a wireless network, and it picked up a linksys router, obviously one of our neighbor's. We don't know who, but when we take the laptop outside on the deck, we get very good connectivity. I don't really think this is right, but is it legal without them knowing, whoever it is around our house that has a wireless Internet router and we just happen to be able to pick up the signal?
#2
Old 04-13-2005, 09:15 PM
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That you have to ask whether stealing service from a customer and his ISP is a crime is just unfathomable.

Were you planning to use his bandwidth to upload videos to the web, as asked in your other post in this forum?
#3
Old 04-13-2005, 09:16 PM
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Want me to tell you how to steal their phone service too?






Well I ain't going to.
#4
Old 04-13-2005, 09:26 PM
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As far as I know, it's sort of a grey area.

The way I see it: Security is extremely easy to turn on. It's in the instructions TO turn it on. Therefore, if absolutely no efforts are made to secure the connection, the owner is willing to allow others to use it (within the limits of the law, and definitely NOT as your primary connection.) But if you have to defeat any sort of security (WAP key cracking, MAC spoofing, etc) you are not welcome. I've had to drive around and find an unsecured connection to do simple stuff (look up an address or phone number) But I make sure that I'm only on it for a second.... And if I find that their network is open and files or printers are being shared, I sure as heck don't touch them (and if I knew whose network it was, I would alert them)

Of course, the best way is to simply ask permission.
#5
Old 04-13-2005, 09:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by St_Ides
As far as I know, it's sort of a grey area.

The way I see it: Security is extremely easy to turn on. It's in the instructions TO turn it on. Therefore, if absolutely no efforts are made to secure the connection, the owner is willing to allow others to use it (within the limits of the law, and definitely NOT as your primary connection.) But if you have to defeat any sort of security (WAP key cracking, MAC spoofing, etc) you are not welcome. I've had to drive around and find an unsecured connection to do simple stuff (look up an address or phone number) But I make sure that I'm only on it for a second.... And if I find that their network is open and files or printers are being shared, I sure as heck don't touch them (and if I knew whose network it was, I would alert them)

Of course, the best way is to simply ask permission.
So stealing a dime is ok..just don't steal a dollar.

Is that right?
#6
Old 04-13-2005, 09:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
So stealing a dime is ok..just don't steal a dollar.

Is that right?
Who is St_ides stealing from? The cable company? Only if he is using his neighbors connection instead of using them for his ISP. The owner of the connection? Only if he is using it enough to impact the owners use of the connection?
#7
Old 04-13-2005, 09:39 PM
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My roomates brother (computer geek) bought over his wireless computer and managed to find four unsecured wireless machines in our apartment complex. He didn't probe to see what was on the computers, but thought it would be wickedly funny to install a program in the startup to notify people that they were being watched by the NSA. Didn't do it, but I was surprised by how easy it was...
#8
Old 04-13-2005, 09:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gazpacho
Who is St_ides stealing from? The cable company? Only if he is using his neighbors connection instead of using them for his ISP. The owner of the connection? Only if he is using it enough to impact the owners use of the connection?
You are arguing that using someone elses internet connection is ok?

Can I move next to you?
#9
Old 04-13-2005, 09:45 PM
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Reeder, are you going to do anything more than asking rhetorical questions?

I think most people would agree that it is morally wrong to use someone else network connection without their explicit permission. However the question of whether or not it is specifically illegal is another one entirely. Can you actually answer it?
#10
Old 04-13-2005, 09:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
You are arguing that using someone elses internet connection is ok?

Can I move next to you?
No I am saying that what St_Ides is talking about is not stealing. I want you to tell me who he has harmed with what he has done.
#11
Old 04-13-2005, 09:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishbicycle
That you have to ask whether stealing service from a customer and his ISP is a crime is just unfathomable.

Were you planning to use his bandwidth to upload videos to the web, as asked in your other post in this forum?
No, I was using our main computer that is hooked up to cable Internet. But right now I am on the laptop because I am about to install a printer driver for it. I don't normally use the laptop, but my sister does. She downloads music and talks on MSN Messenger on it.
#12
Old 04-13-2005, 09:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gazpacho
No I am saying that what St_Ides is talking about is not stealing. I want you to tell me who he has harmed with what he has done.
I give up.


It seems y'all believe taking something you didn't pay for is ok.
#13
Old 04-13-2005, 09:57 PM
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Reeder: Just out of curiosity, what are your opinions on copying, copyright, and IP?
#14
Old 04-13-2005, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaper
Reeder: Just out of curiosity, what are your opinions on copying, copyright, and IP?
I can copy what I own..I can't copy what you own,

IP??
#15
Old 04-13-2005, 10:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
I give up.


It seems y'all believe taking something you didn't pay for is ok.
So you can't provide any cite to show that using someone elses connection is illegal?
#16
Old 04-13-2005, 10:12 PM
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The ethical issues aside, I don't think it's illegal.
#17
Old 04-13-2005, 10:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gazpacho
No I am saying that what St_Ides is talking about is not stealing. I want you to tell me who he has harmed with what he has done.
Technically, he's deprived an ISP of service fees since he's not paying an ISP for access...the same way that you're depriving the cable company of monthly fees if you tap into the neighbor's cable.

Thing is, there are wireless access points all over big cities that are left open on purpose so people can get wireless access for their laptops. It's not illegal to leave your wireless network open as far as I know. There's nothing in my ISP's subscription agreement prohibiting it. I have mine set up so that if someone stopped their car in front of my house, they could access the internet. They'd almost have to be in my driveway, but they could do it.

My router will even allow me to restrict the bandwidth to the wireless connections so that file sharing would be almost impossible, but still allow for a quick e-mail check.
#18
Old 04-13-2005, 10:17 PM
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I don't believe this.

Members in good standing on this board believe it's ok to to use a service in which they are not entitled to use.

Says a lot about you doesn't it.


I believe I am entitled to call you thieves.

Which is what you are.
#19
Old 04-13-2005, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gazpacho
No I am saying that what St_Ides is talking about is not stealing. I want you to tell me who he has harmed with what he has done.
Well, if he happens to use someone's connection and it has a download limit (such as mine does), then he is harming that person by taking some of their download allowance. I pay an axtra 15c per M if I go over my download limit, so its not like the impact is huge, but the fact is that what he is doing may have some impact on someone else. Therefore it is ethically wrong.

Is it illegal though? Reeder seems to think so, and it would make sense if it was, but no cites as yet.
#20
Old 04-13-2005, 10:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
It seems y'all believe taking something you didn't pay for is ok.
Societies have prohibitions against theft not because the thief is getting something but because the victim loses something. So yes, taking something you didn't pay for can be OK. Similarly, I give stuff away that I don't get paid for, especially when it doesn't mean losing anything. Anybody in my vicinity with wi-fi can use my connection. I am clued in enough to protect myself against intrusion and so long as they don't slow my connection down while I'm using it and my ISP doesn't cap my monthly downloads, I intend to keep doing this.
#21
Old 04-13-2005, 10:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
I don't believe this.

Members in good standing on this board believe it's ok to to use a service in which they are not entitled to use.

Says a lot about you doesn't it.


I believe I am entitled to call you thieves.

Which is what you are.
You may have a bit more credibilty if you could just PROVIDE A CITE. I happen to agree with you, however just saying it is illegal, doesn't make it so.
#22
Old 04-13-2005, 10:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1920s Style "Death Ray"
You may have a bit more credibilty if you could just PROVIDE A CITE. I happen to agree with you, however just saying it is illegal, doesn't make it so.

Ain't nothing illegal unless you get caught.
#23
Old 04-13-2005, 10:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonh300
Technically, he's deprived an ISP of service fees since he's not paying an ISP for access...the same way that you're depriving the cable company of monthly fees if you tap into the neighbor's cable.
In St_Ides I don't think that this is the case. The internet connection is being paid for. He might be depriving a cell phone company a subscription to a cellular data service.

In the OP case when he is using the same connection over and over from the neighbor you are correct.

Reeder. I really don't have a problem with you using my internet connection provided you don't abuse it. The problem comes in that I cannot trust random strangers to not abuse my connection therefore I secure it.
#24
Old 04-13-2005, 10:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
Ain't nothing illegal unless you get caught.
So let me get this straight.

When the OP asks "Is using someone else's wireless network illegal?", you are unable to provide any useful, factual information.

What exactly are you doing here?
#25
Old 04-13-2005, 10:38 PM
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Just an off-topic observation, but this sounds just like the early days of file sharing. After all, unlimited copies of a file can be made, so it isn't really stealing, but something else, or so the arguemnet went.
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#26
Old 04-13-2005, 10:44 PM
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OK..it might not be prosecutable..I catch you using mine and it will be.


But that doesn't make it right.
#27
Old 04-13-2005, 10:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
OK..it might not be prosecutable
So you believe it's not illegal, then?
#28
Old 04-13-2005, 10:55 PM
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If I left a hose outside my house running, pouring water over the sidewalk (i.e. public property), would it be wrong for you to walk by and take a drink? I don't think so, and I think the situations are roughly analogous.

In both cases, someone is broadcasting a resource of relatively low value beyond the bounds of his own property and failing to take simple and known precautions against its being taken by others. Furthermore, in both cases, the "loss" need not have a measurable impact on the person losing the resource.

Reeder's position is that taking something that isn't yours is always wrong. It's hard to argue with that, but I think that an analogy could be drawn to the legal status of squatters. IANAL, but my understanding is that if you allow someone to use your property and don't do anything to stop them over a period of time, they ultimately gain a form of ownership.

In other words, a person who makes a resource widely available and does nothing to protect it bears some responsibility for the situation.
#29
Old 04-13-2005, 10:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri
So you believe it's not illegal, then?
Yes I believe it's illegal.

Wanna be the test case?
#30
Old 04-13-2005, 11:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
But that doesn't make it right.
Nobody said it did. Read the title of the thread. Does it say "Is using someone else's wireless network ethical?" No. Does it say "Is using someone else's wireless network moral?" No. Does it say "Do you think using someone else's wireless network is okay?" No.

It says: "Is using someone else's wireless network legal?"

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=legal

legal
adj.

1. Of, relating to, or concerned with law: legal papers.
2.
1. Authorized by or based on law: a legal right.
2. Established by law; statutory: the legal owner.
3. In conformity with or permitted by law: legal business operations.
4. Recognized or enforced by law rather than by equity.
5. In terms of or created by the law: a legal offense.
6. Applicable to or characteristic of attorneys or their profession.

The OP's question deals solely with matters of law. S/he wants to know whether the law, as it stands, specifically prohibits the use of an unsecured wireless internet connection belonging to someone other than oneself. Your moral stance on the issue, while justifiable and in line with many valid ideologies, has no bearing on its present legality. If you wish to discuss the ethics of this type of action, I heartily recommend GD (or, alternatively, the Pit).

On preview, I see that you've since posited that, in addition to believing it unethical, you also believe it to be illegal. However, unlike ethics, in which each individual's opinion can and should be given consideration, the current state of law is a definite matter upon which beliefs hold no influence whatsoever. Ergo: cite?
#31
Old 04-13-2005, 11:03 PM
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Agreed. It probably isn't the "right" thing to do.

The problem is that a lot of people have open access points on purpose. How are we supposed to know which access points are open on purpose to allow other people to use them, and which ones aren't? I think that the onus should really be on the owner of the access point to secure it, then if ANY kind of attempt is made to get past the security you have definitely over stepped the bounds of decency.

A useful analogy may be a water tap placed on the outside of a building. The water from that tap is being paid for by the building's owner (in some states in Australia water is paid for per litre, in others it is included in the rates paid to the city each year, either way it is paid for.)

In order to use the water from that tap, it is not necessary to trespass. Is it legal to turn the tap on and take some water? Is it ethically right? What about if you hook up a hose and fill up your swimming pool with it?

I don't know the answer to the legal question. My opinion is that it is ethically ok to turn the tap on and take enough water for a drink, half a litre say. It would be wrong to hook up a hose and fill up your pool.

In the same way I think that it's probably ok to use someone's unsecured wireless connection to check your emails as a once off, and it is not ok to use it to download full length movies.



None of this answers the OP though.
#32
Old 04-13-2005, 11:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
OK..it might not be prosecutable..I catch you using mine and it will be.
I don't understand what you mean. I suspect it's internet tough guy talk that's supposed to sound ominous but OTOH, you might actually mean that you would try to press charges against someone using your connection. In either case, if you're so adverse to someone doing this, it's trivially easy to enable WEP or WPA to keep your precious bandwidth all to yourself.

Laws are inherently bad things and if another solution can be found, especially when it's a better solution, it's what should be used.
#33
Old 04-13-2005, 11:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland Orzabal
Nobody said it did. Read the title of the thread. Does it say "Is using someone else's wireless network ethical?" No. Does it say "Is using someone else's wireless network moral?" No. Does it say "Do you think using someone else's wireless network is okay?" No.

It says: "Is using someone else's wireless network legal?"

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=legal

legal
adj.

1. Of, relating to, or concerned with law: legal papers.
2.
1. Authorized by or based on law: a legal right.
2. Established by law; statutory: the legal owner.
3. In conformity with or permitted by law: legal business operations.
4. Recognized or enforced by law rather than by equity.
5. In terms of or created by the law: a legal offense.
6. Applicable to or characteristic of attorneys or their profession.

The OP's question deals solely with matters of law. S/he wants to know whether the law, as it stands, specifically prohibits the use of an unsecured wireless internet connection belonging to someone other than oneself. Your moral stance on the issue, while justifiable and in line with many valid ideologies, has no bearing on its present legality. If you wish to discuss the ethics of this type of action, I heartily recommend GD (or, alternatively, the Pit).

On preview, I see that you've since posited that, in addition to believing it unethical, you also believe it to be illegal. However, unlike ethics, in which each individual's opinion can and should be given consideration, the current state of law is a definite matter upon which beliefs hold no influence whatsoever. Ergo: cite?

Maybe you want to be the test case.
#34
Old 04-13-2005, 11:11 PM
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One last statement befor I go to bed.

If you use something that belongs to someone else. Without their permisson. That they paid for. It's wrong and illegal.
#35
Old 04-13-2005, 11:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
Yes I believe it's illegal.

Wanna be the test case?
Sure. Cite the law that applies.
#36
Old 04-13-2005, 11:14 PM
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OK, lets say that one of us agrees to be the test case.

You leave your wireless connection unsecured. I say "Reeder, may I use your wireless conection to connect to the internet?" You say "no." I do it anyway.

What are you going to charge me with?
#37
Old 04-13-2005, 11:17 PM
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The above doesn't really test it properly.

Remove the part where I ask if I can use the connection and you say "no." Instead I just go and use your connection with no idea whether you want me to or not.
#38
Old 04-13-2005, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
Maybe you want to be the test case.
An apt refutation of my above points, to be sure. Nonetheless, I do hope you'll indulge me a moment longer. In answer to your question, no, I don't. I happen to agree with your stance that the use of someone else's connection without their permission is unethical. I would not personally do this, and would in fact actively discourage others from doing so.

Now: please be so kind as to enlighten me, soundly defeated though I am, as to what on Earth any of this has to do with the legality of the action in question.

Quote:
If you use something that belongs to someone else. Without their permisson. That they paid for. It's wrong and illegal.
Ah yes, the infamous "Antitheft Sentence Fragment Act" of 1972. Unless you can produce a cite for a law that states "The use of something that belongs to someone else without their permission, that they paid for, is illegal", then I'm afraid that that particular series of randomly punctuated words will not constitute the final word on the issue. Better yet would be if you could produce a law that actually pertains to wireless internet use. The rest of us will be waiting.
#39
Old 04-13-2005, 11:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commasense
If I left a hose outside my house running, pouring water over the sidewalk (i.e. public property), would it be wrong for you to walk by and take a drink? I don't think so, and I think the situations are roughly analogous.
That's a good analogy. Here's another. You have a party in your backyard at which you have a live musical group performing. I sit in my backyard next door and enjoy the music. Am I stealing from you? I would think not, since you have not limited the broadcast of the music to your property.
#40
Old 04-13-2005, 11:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
If you use something that belongs to someone else. Without their permisson. That they paid for. It's wrong and illegal.
It could be argued that by choosing to leave your wireless network unsecured, you are implying permission to use the network.
#41
Old 04-13-2005, 11:36 PM
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Also, to mr. meman: while this doesn't even remotely qualify as a cite, it is perhaps worth mentioning that every single court case I've been able to dig up regarding wireless internet has involved the accused being prosecuted for malicious and/or illegal action taken via said connection (i.e. "warspamming", theft of personal information, downloading child pornography, etc), and none of these cases have addressed that particular issue at all. Subsequent reports on the cases note the establishment of the illegality of hijacking someone else's connection explicitly for illegal purposes as described above, but in reference to the hijacking itself, state only that it is advisable to take security measures to prevent this from happening. I have been unable to find a single case dealing with hijacking itself.

My WAG, keeping in mind that I am not a lawyer, is that the courts just haven't tested this one yet, at least not prominently so. Based on that, if it hasn't been specifically illegalized, I wouldn't lay odds on any case brought to trial under a broader statute (perhaps some sort of intellectual property theft law) bringing a conviction. But again, I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, and my opinion on the matter means absolutely nothing. (Think I've got enough CYA here?)

Just letting you know what I've found.
#42
Old 04-13-2005, 11:54 PM
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Since this issue appears to be a gray area of the law and has not been tested yet, I see no point in allowing the continuation of what is transpiring here.

If anyone can come up with a legal cite showing that this has been litigated, no matter what the decision, I'll be glad to reopen the thread. Just email me.
#43
Old 04-14-2005, 03:40 AM
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I'll reopen this one so that posts can be added which directly relate to cites about legal opinions on the matter. If you want to discuss moral issues, take it to Great Debates.
#44
Old 04-14-2005, 06:55 AM
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Sorry. I meant to unlock this when I posted last night. Must have been sleepy.
#45
Old 04-14-2005, 07:04 AM
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Whilst this isn't a 100% legal cite it is a quote from a "legal director at Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based technology think tank".

Source: http://post-gazette.com/pg/05086/477876.stm

Relevant quote:
Quote:
Mike Godwin, legal director at Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based technology think tank, said most consumers would not notice if a neighbor tapped into their network to surf the Web because it would not affect the speed or strength of their Internet connection.

Godwin said it's not illegal to utilize another person's wireless connection, but polite neighbors might want to determine whose service they are borrowing and offer to help pay the cost of the high-speed cable or DSL Internet connection.
So as long as you commit no illegal act whilst being connected there is nothing wrong with it, at least nothing in a legel sense.

Apparently there exists a symbol that these so called wardrivers spray on the side of buildings where a connection can be established. So anybody driving along and seeing a place of business or residential home with this symbol on the side knows they can pull up and check their e-mails. I have no cite for this, I heard it sometime ago but forget where from.
#46
Old 04-14-2005, 07:12 AM
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1. It's illegal.

2. We had a thread on this very topic some months ago, in which legal cites were provided and duscussed extensively.

3. One of those cites was the state law of Virginia, which is typical of state laws across the country: Va. Code 18.2-152.6 prohibits theft of computer services, specficially:
Quote:
Any person who willfully uses a computer or computer network, with intent to obtain computer services without authority, shall be guilty of the crime of theft of computer services...
The practice is also prohibited by federal law.

4. Reeder is right.
#47
Old 04-14-2005, 07:20 AM
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I hope I'm not going to get into trouble for posting something that isn't a legal cite, but I think it's important to point out that some of the analogies made above are somewhat lacking - a wireless connection isn't a simple broadcast, it's a conversation - listening to your neighbour's music doesn't deprive him of anything; accessing your neighbour's wireless internet does - you'd be tying up a portion of the communication bandwidth that he has purchased.
He probably pays a flat rate for this, doesn't use it all (not all of the time anyway) and wouldn't even notice, but you're still taking something - in the sense that you're depriving him of the possibility of using (all of)it.
That the portion you're using is comparatively small is a red herring (or at least can be dealth with by asking what if fifty people all connect to his wireless internet, rendering his own connection unworkable?.

I'm not qualified to say whether or not there is a law specific enough to cover this, but lets all at least acknowledge what the issue really comprises.
#48
Old 04-14-2005, 08:09 AM
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Bricker, I think I remember that thread, it mentioned an actual case. IIRC, one of those wardrivers who locate open networks went and checked his email through an open Home Depot network. His compatriot was involved in some illegal activities, and the feds used his "theft of computer services" violation to pressure him into testifying.
#49
Old 04-14-2005, 08:13 AM
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Was that the only case mentioned in the thread? If so then it would still seem nobody has ever been prosecuted for simply accessing the wireless network, only for doing nasty things whilst on there.
#50
Old 04-14-2005, 08:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bricker

Quote:
Any person who willfully uses a computer or computer network, with intent to obtain computer services without authority, shall be guilty of the crime of theft of computer services...

4. Reeder is right.
Sounds like this is referring to computer hacking, which is illegal. By unlocking your wireless you grant ipso facto authority. If you lock your connection, anybody entering does so illegally. Not if you leave it unlocked.

Reeder is wrong, and so are you.
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