The CNET Lounge forum

General discussion

stealing wi-fi connection

by aribeiro2 / November 19, 2006 9:05 AM PST

stealing your neighbor's wi-fi connection is like stealing/spying on other people's cell phone radio waves... or spying/stealing on any other radio frequency communication!

i haven't seen any discussion about it in the forums, and i think this subject really matters!

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: stealing wi-fi connection
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: stealing wi-fi connection
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
I don't think it matters but...
by dro0001 / November 19, 2006 10:12 AM PST

I do think it is wrong. The fact is you are sending signals into someone else's broadband connection and using their paid for service. It would be different if you were simply picking up their broadcast and looking at it (then it is their own fault if they are not securing it). However, once you start to utilize their stuff, then you have crossed over into actively stealing a service. However, do I think this is something that will bring down

Collapse -
Public Networks
by kellenjb / November 19, 2006 10:43 AM PST

How do you separate from networks who intend to be open to the public vs those who aren't? A lot of the public networks aren't named something you would immediately think to be public. If you say it is illegal to use a wireless network that is broadcasted insecurely you will be calling all public hotspots illegal.

I don't know the answer to this one. I think the easiest solution is to say that if your network is left insecure you are inviting anyone and everyone to use your network. Encryption is so easy to setup that everyone should use it. But then I really don't know what happens to the person next door who just doesn't know any better and has their connect open. There is no reason to take advantage of them.

I think this is too complicated of a situation to be able to compare it to anything else in the world.

Collapse -
encryption is weak!
by aribeiro2 / November 19, 2006 11:54 AM PST
In reply to: Public Networks

you should not trust WEP...
it's so easy to break, and most people use it...

a friend of mine got a laptop while driving across my city, and found more than 600 hotspots... less than 100 used encryption!
it's like a paradise for people who are looking for a secure way to commit a crime online...

but i guess this problem will be solved by itself...
all that "old things that are new again" will come back, and there will come a time when every hotspot will be encrypted by default, using a secure encryption method, and the user will not have to worry about it...

Collapse -
Yes but
by kellenjb / November 19, 2006 1:26 PM PST
In reply to: encryption is weak!

That is the whole point though. If you have WEP or WPA enabled, someone will have to break into the network in order to use it. This is clearly illegal. If someone had a public WiFi they wouldn't make you break into it in order to use it.

Collapse -
by dro0001 / November 19, 2006 12:05 PM PST
In reply to: Public Networks

This isn't hard. If you are using something that is not yours, it is YOUR responsibility to know the source of the WiFi (public vs. neighbor). I will make the concession that unless the owner of the WiFi wishes to press charges, then there should be no charges.

Collapse -
Good Point
by kellenjb / November 19, 2006 1:40 PM PST
In reply to: Nonsense...

Hmm, Good Point, I never thought about that. That could make it very messy though. It would get to the point that you would have to have written consent to use a wireless network. Otherwise someone could advertise their network as public, but then press charges against you for using their private network.

This made me think about FTP servers. There are many out there that can be accessed with out a password. They aren't as common as WiFi so it isn't as big of deal. But it is hard to know if the FTP server is supposed to be public or private.

Collapse -
I accidently stole someone's wi-fi
by ktreb / November 19, 2006 10:26 AM PST

When someone turned the wi-fi switch on on my laptop 2 years ago. So, of course I took it. At the time, I had crappy dial-up. For 2 days, I had glorious, high-speed internet. Then the signal weakened and I lost it. The following week, I signed up for DSL and created my own secure wireless network.

Yes, stealing is wrong, but it did make me become a paying customer!

Collapse -
Okay.. this is so over
by Kev50027 / November 19, 2006 10:36 AM PST

They've been talking about this forever now, we got all of the examples we could ever need and far more. Let's put this subject to rest.

Collapse -
(NT) Just like DRM right?
by dro0001 / November 19, 2006 12:01 PM PST
In reply to: Okay.. this is so over
Collapse -
It may be so over...
by ktreb / November 19, 2006 12:39 PM PST
In reply to: Okay.. this is so over

But it was worth a mention on the Buzz Out Loud podcast last week. And thus the posts.

Like the DRM issue, it will come up over and over again.

Collapse -
Is it Resolved?
by kellenjb / November 20, 2006 5:00 AM PST
In reply to: Okay.. this is so over

It isn't over until it's resolved. Of course this forum alone can not resolve a problem like this, but people will talk about it until it is resolved. And then even then people will be talking about how it was resolved. Isn't that the whole purpose of an open forum such as this... to trade ideas?

Collapse -
Law & Order: Internet Protection Unit
by Darayz / November 20, 2006 4:56 AM PST

Won't be long before this show comes on the air . .

Collapse -
by Nicholas Buenk / November 21, 2006 4:57 AM PST

I wouldn't call it stealing, it's more like peaking into your neighbours home with binoculars to watch their cable tv. Silly
Provided you aren't downloading massive files or peaking into their file shares it's pretty harmless.
And there's a great need for free wifi in public areas anyway, anyone who's had a laptop knows the convenance of being able to stop off some where to look up something important like an address or phone number while doing something when out. If they are going to start making accessing wifi illegal a public system should be provided by councils then.

Collapse -
Desire != Need
by DAV320 / November 21, 2006 5:18 AM PST
In reply to: Wifi

And there is nothing "public" that's free. If the government is involved, it is paid for by the taxpayers.

Collapse -
by aribeiro2 / November 21, 2006 7:41 AM PST
In reply to: Wifi

well, it's like listening to someone's phone... is it legal in your country? (it should not be!)

i don't know if sniffing other people's internet packets is legal in my country or not :/

Collapse -
by dro0001 / November 21, 2006 11:08 AM PST
In reply to: Wifi

Actually, it is more like peeking into your neighbors house to watch TV, and then turning their picture in picture on to watch something you want to watch.

Collapse -
One more angle on this issue.
by atravis / November 21, 2006 9:00 AM PST

One angle on the using a neighbor's WiFi discussion that I haven't heard: It's a limited spectrum. In the US, we only have 11 channels to choose from. With overlap and interference from other RF sources, you may only have 2 or 3 clear, reliable WiFi channels you can use in your own home. If you live in an apartment in a city, and a couple of your neighbors have access points, plus the coffee shop across the street, you may have a tough time finding space for your own wireless signal. I know this scenario doesn't apply to everyone, but I think we need to recognize that someone sending their WiFi into my house MAY interfere with my ability to use my own service. Since the spectrum is unlicensed, I think the concepts of ownership and theft become less clear.

That's my two cents.

Collapse -
good point
by aribeiro2 / November 21, 2006 9:29 AM PST

but still, i think the private data is not yours... so you could not steal other people's data, and use their network...

but you came up with a good point: what if i install a very powerful noise generator for the 2.4ghz band?
i guess nobody would have the right to complain about it...

Collapse -
Is it private?
by kellenjb / November 21, 2006 10:00 AM PST
In reply to: good point

In my view when you broadcast your SSID and you keep your network unsecured you are sending an invitation to everyone that they can use your network. The way I see it is broadcasting your SSID would be like putting a sign outside your house that says "You are welcome to come in", leaving it unsecured is like leaving your doors unlocked. The combination of the two leads to people walking in and using your services. So it might be your private data but you have put a sign saying you can come in. Is it stealing if they are giving it to the world to use?

Collapse -
So if you leave your front door unlocked....
by ktreb / November 21, 2006 2:14 PM PST
In reply to: Is it private?

then can I come in, raid your refrigerator, take your wallet and computer? After all you're giving these for me to use. I don't think so. It's still stealing, even if you leave your door wide open.

Collapse -
You missed the point
by kellenjb / November 21, 2006 2:39 PM PST

You missed the point that I made about having a sign outside my house saying you can come in. That is what you are doing when you are broadcasting your SSID. After all you can turn off the broadcasting of your SSID and still connect to your access point.

Now if I do have a sign out in front of my house that says come on in, but I lock the doors it would still be breaking in.

Collapse -
When can we edit posts?
by kellenjb / November 21, 2006 2:45 PM PST
In reply to: You missed the point

I just wanted to add something. Maybe it would be better to think of it like a store. You have a sign out front that implies that people should come in, you leave the doors unlocked. There isn't anything illegal about this?

Like I said, when you broadcast a SSID you are putting a sign out that implies you can come in. In fact the reason SSID's are used was supposed to be so you could find public networks. It just became common practice, because it is easier, to use SSIDs all of the time.

Collapse -
Sometimes broadcasting your SSID
by ktreb / November 21, 2006 4:01 PM PST

and leaving your wi-fi unsecure could be like accidentally leaving your front door unlocked. Especially for wi-fi newbies. Which was what happened to my neighbor that I accidentally stole wi-fi from. And what happened to one of my friends ("you mean just anybody can use my wi-fi? and download porn? yuck!") Yes, they should know better.

I actually did think about the store analogy. But the mere broadcasting of the SSID does not imply free wi-fi. A sign, such as "Free Wi-Fi!", at places such as public libraries, does.

Collapse -
Your still broadcasting it
by kellenjb / November 21, 2006 11:15 PM PST

But that is what the broadcasting of SSID was created for, was to advertise a network to the public. If you don't want to public to know about it maybe you should turn of the broadcasting of your SSID.

Maybe Access Point manufactures should turn this off by default so the average user doesn't leave it on.

Let me make it clear though, I do believe that accessing a network that you know is just for another home is stealing. And no one should take advantage of others just because they didn't know better. But the reality is that not everyone is like that, they want to take the easy road out. As of now there is pretty much nothing regulating this type of traffic and there needs something to be done... but what? I'm just posing a way that the law could define these networks.

Collapse -
"Tech" makes money from that advice.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 21, 2006 11:22 PM PST

Should I share why disabling SSID breaks things and "Tech" mays good money doing housecalls to turn it back on?

If you offer this advice, please provide details about what it will break and also tell us about KISMET and KISMAC which may show that this security advice while well intentioned is best questioned.


Collapse -
It's not security Advice
by kellenjb / November 22, 2006 1:59 AM PST

I know that disabling SSID is not in anyway secure. I have just been trying to look at it from a legal perspective and how the law should interpret it. Not security advice. After all this forum started with if this activity is stealing or not.

Most people have said it should be viewed like a house... where if you keep your doors unlocked but someone comes in and steals something it is still stealing despite the fact that you left your doors unlocked. But if you look at it this way then you are shutting out public WiFi. Yes they could change their name to something that makes it clear its public, but why should they have to? Stores don't have to make their name something like "We have clothing for sale here", they come up with clever names that wouldn't make you think of what they are selling. I can easily see a huge market of Public Access Points in which you have to pay for, but how are they going to convince you to come to one instead of the other? By a clever name and trying to create brand loyalty.

My point being there is no way to tell the difference between a public access point and a private one just by the name. So where should the law stand?

Collapse -
I think that answer is clear.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 22, 2006 2:33 AM PST

I'm going to leave it to the magic word.


If you intend to rip off your neighbors even if they left the door unlocked, then what color does that paint you?


Collapse -
It isn't that clear
by kellenjb / November 22, 2006 2:36 AM PST

I don't think it is as clear as you are tying to make it though. What if you don't know if it is public or not? There is no clear way to tell. What if your neighbors left it open because they wanted you to use it?

Collapse -
For kellen...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 22, 2006 5:29 AM PST

Yes. Your reply paints you in the green. Your intent is all the difference here.

Have a great thanksgiving.


Collapse -
by kellenjb / November 22, 2006 11:20 AM PST

Thanks, Have a great Thanksgiving yourself.

Popular Forums
Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Help, my PC with Windows 10 won't shut down properly

Since upgrading to Windows 10 my computer won't shut down properly. I use the menu button shutdown and the screen goes blank, but the system does not fully shut down. The only way to get it to shut down is to hold the physical power button down till it shuts down. Any suggestions?