Piggybacking on wireless networks…probably not a good idea

While I don't want to start a debate on the topic, I've always been of the opinion that taking advantage of an open wireless network that doesn't belong to you, and isn't explicitly provided for the purpose of public access, is wrong.

Apparently, I'm not alone in this opinion, as an Illinois man has been fined and sentenced to court supervision for accessing someone else's wireless network.

I've heard lots of arguments comparing open wireless networks to leaving one's doors unlocked and/or open, and always found them unconvincing. Looks like in this case at least, a court agrees.

Regardless of your opinion on the issue, it's worth bearing this in mind before you connect to an open wireless access point. Of course, I strongly recommend that anyone who's going to have a wireless network should have it as locked down as possible.

Or just use a wired network, which is what I started doing since switching to FiOS, since that allowed me to move my broadband connection into my office (it had been upstairs, thanks to the previous homeowners decision to move the cable up there). Now, although I still use a wireless router, I keep the wireless turned off unless I specifically need to use it.

Comments (6)
  1. tony roth says:

    no leave the access point open and secure the internal resources and rate limit the off network mac adds, its nice to share!

  2. Sahil Malik says:

    FIOS rocks !!

    So what is your SSID? Mine is complete anti-linux.

  3. DEvHammer says:

    Hi Tony,

      Of course, if you want to share, that’s your choice…in which case, you should probably make your SSID something like "freewifi"!

      My point was that most folks who are currently sharing have no idea that they are. It’s one thing to share on purpose, but another to do so unknowingly.

  4. tony roth says:

    the house analogy is not I think a good analogy homes have been around for hmm a couple of years, and wifi hmm less then that, so I think in time wifi nets will be more common and more secure.  We need this to happen for the virtual wifi stuff to have any goodness..

    have vwifi with a public and private ssid is what I’m thinking

  5. DEvHammer says:

    Hi Tony,

      It’s not a perfect analogy, no. How about this one? I have electrical outlets on the outside of my home, for convenience. If someone were to come along, park in front of my house, and plug in and start using my electricity, wouldn’t that, in effect, be the same thing as what this guy was doing? Now I suppose if I put a sign up over the outlet that said "free electricity", that would be one thing, but unless someone’s actually there doing work for me, my expectation is that even though those outlets aren’t secured, that people understand that the fact that they’re there isn’t an invitation to use them.

      Shouldn’t be any different with WiFi, IMO. Just because there aren’t any wires shouldn’t make any difference.

      Incidentally, I agree that wireless security will (and has) improve over time. But that’s really sort of beside the point, in a sense.

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