Man arrested for abusing wireless Internet access

By Justin Mann on June 22, 2006, 11:21 AM
The law is starting to side with the uninformed more often in the wireless world, as evident by the reactions of people to war driving and getting wireless connections they shouldn't. Most recently, there's a story from my local area about a man who has been arrested for using free Internet access too much. A coffee shop in Vancouver, Washington had a service that many other companies also offer free Internet access while you're on the premises. This was intended for customer use only, of course. But like many who operate free access points, they didn't enforce any type of protection on it. As a result, the man began using the service for free, for three months. Despite complaints and warnings, he kept doing it, and is now in jail.

As it turns out, Smith is a Level One Sex Offender, but whether he in fact committed a crime by not buying a single tall latte before accessing the Internet, well that remains to be seen. The sheriff's office and prosecutors are now reviewing the case.
While his example is an extreme one, someone who clearly stepped over the line of using a service for what it was intended and theft, there's still an underlying issue here of responsibility. Many mobile devices, including laptops and PDAs, will automatically connect themselves to any access point they can when they come within range. While an intelligent wireless operator knows how to defend against rogue connections and monitor them, the bulk of home users buying a wireless router do not, and as a result we have hundreds of thousands of open hot spots. This makes situations like the one above quite common. Rather than arresting all the war drivers, a better way to accomplish this would be for people to take the time to learn a bit about wireless before employing it, or for the manufacturers of home devices to spend more time in creating automated protection systems.

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