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Kevin Remde's IT Pro WebLog

Wireless Bozo

I was just catching up on some IT news, and came across this AP article about the guy in St. Petersburg, FL who was arrested for using someone else’s wireless network.  In a nutshell, the guy (Ben Smith) sat in his SUV outside someone’s home, with his laptop, and used their unsecured wireless network.

My question is: Who is really the criminal here?

Yes… the owner of the wireless access point, who also paid for his own Internet connection, is right to want to keep others off of his network.  …let alone wonder about the stranger sitting in the car out front of his house with the strange glow coming from his lap.  But…

Are you on my network?

C’mon now, bozo!  It’s not that hard to enable basic encryption and protection of your wireless network!  If you don’t want someone using it, then take the extra 5 minutes to understand the clear instructions your wireless access point manufacturer gave you to turn on WEP.  It’s not Rocket Surgery.

“But Kevin… Shouldn’t we have laws against unauthorized network access?”

My opinion: Yes.  And no!  (wishy-washy?  Yep)  Okay… yes it’s not right that the guy used someone’s network and Internet access without permission.  However, one could argue that the very presense of unencrypted wireless access makes it fair game.  Perhaps what we need are laws that say that if it’s in the air, and unencrypted, then it’s assumed to be in the public domain. 

What do you think?  If you were the judge or jury here, what would you decide?