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  • Wireless Internet Question

    We all know how great wireless internet is, but can it get a person in trouble with the law? I was talking with a friend and this issue came up. If a person was to have a lap top computer with built-in wireless that lets the user know there is a wireless connection in the area, is it Illegal to use? Now the person that would be using it never had to put in a password (an unsecure connection) and is using it for the use of personal e-mail, youtube and so on. The user also has no intentions on altering any of the policy holder's internet connections or files at all, just using it to pass time while out of town or whatever. Is this Illegal? How does someone know if the wireless connection is intended for public use or privet when they are unsecured connections?

  • #2
    I know this was discussed in the past and opinions varied, but I do believe that it would be a theft of services. You're tapping into a resource that someone else pays for which does have an effect on the authorized user (because of limited bandwidth, multiple users on a private wireless network slows the connection). It would essentially be the same as tapping into someone else'e cable signal.

    It's your responsability to know what network you're tapping into and whether or not you're authorized to use that network.

    Now, from a tech standpoint, anyone who runs a wireless network without encryption and leaves the locator signal activated on the router is an idiot. But, there are some very tech-unsavvy people out there setting up their own home networks.
    "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
    -Friedrich Nietzsche

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    • #3
      I thought there was some case law that said this wasn't a crime. Can't remember where it was though. In fact, some people leave their networks open for the purpose of letting the public have a hotspot. Most crimes of larceny include an element similar to: "The intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property". I don't think this fits here.

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      • #4
        But itsn't it like HDTV that's broadcast over the airwaves (via antennae, not via cable or dish)? If you can catch it legally, why is it illegal to use it?

        EDJ
        "It's a game of cat and mouse. It's a game of hide and seek. Albeit games with deadly consequences. Like most games-the better you know the rules, the more likely you are to win."

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        • #5
          Originally posted by ElDiabloJoe View Post
          But itsn't it like HDTV that's broadcast over the airwaves (via antennae, not via cable or dish)? If you can catch it legally, why is it illegal to use it? EDJ
          TV signals are broadcast with the expressed intent that they may be received, and watched, by anyone. That's the basis of the industry and why TV stations can sell advertising.

          Wireless hotspots are established with the expressed intent that anyone can use them and it is no crime to do so. A private, unsecured, wireless network is like a house with the front door standing open. The homeowner is not barring access but he doesn't expect people to walk in uninvited and use the bathroom.

          Washington State's laws on computer trespass use language similar to laws against trespass on real estate.

          PC Magazine columnist, John Dvorak, however, thinks my analogy is "dopey". Legislators, cops, and courts think otherwise.

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          • #6
            Here in TN I don't believe there is any laws up to date for use of someone's wireless signal. More than likely we would consider it a civil issue and let them handle it themselves.
            Where'd you learn that, Cheech? Drug school?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by ElDiabloJoe View Post
              If you can catch it legally, why is it illegal to use it?

              EDJ
              Because PC502(c)(7) says it's a No-No (at least in California).
              Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

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              • #8
                I think the front door analogy is a poor one. You don't have to cross a physical threshold to get wireless signal. In fact, I think a better analogy is to get the lottery numbers that scroll across the bottom of his TV screen while you're parked across the street looking into his living room window that he didn't draw the blinds to cover.

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