Is PiggyBacking Illegal?

By GeekWannaBe · 43 replies
Mar 7, 2006
  1. You are in the comforts of your own home, you turn on your laptop and you get prompted the following message:

    "There are wireless networks available. View them now?"

    You click and see the following:

    "The following wireless networks are available: 1) FelipeIsGreat 2) LinksysDSL 3) Netgear"

    You click 2 "Please enter key: " You close
    you click 1 "Connecting....You are now connected."

    Have you just commited a crime?

    Have you not commited a crime, but done something unethical?

    I've seen very heated discussions on both sides, so I wanted to ask experts their opinions.

    Some people say, "You left your network unlocked, so it's your fault."
    While the opposite party says, "If I leave my car unlocked in a parking lot and you take it for a joy ride, it's still wrong."

    Some people say, "You can't compare that, because I didn't tresprass at all."
    While the opposite party says, "If I paid for the service, and you are using it, therefore you are stealing, regardless if my network is encrypted or not."

    Anyone have some clarification.
  2. PanicX

    PanicX TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 669

    This is completely speculative on your governments legislation. You'll have to remember that the internet is not localized to an individual state/province/country/continent. There are certain states in the US which have outlawed connecting to a private network without authorization. Then there are also states with no legislation against this at all.
  3. Jimbo420

    Jimbo420 TS Rookie Posts: 356

    I would have to say that it should be illegal. Just like when a person "hotlinks" (which is illegal everywhere btw) and is stealing bandwidth from another site. That is what you are doing there.
  4. Peddant

    Peddant TS Rookie Posts: 1,446

    I think we all know the right answer,don`t we ? The law may not have caught up with the technicalities yet,but truth is fairly obvious.
  5. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    I had another thread soliciting the opinions about "wifi mooching."

    Personally, I feel if someone leaves their wifi unsecure, it's their fault if someone mooches their bandwidth. I have 3 neighbors that don't secure their wifi. (I also have cable broadband in my house for my desktop.) But I can use my laptop on the wifi if I am not in the same room with my hard-wire router my desktop is using.

    Personally I feel it's like watering the lawn. If your sprinkler lands on my grass, it's my benefit and you're paying the bill. IF you don't like it, orient your sprinkler onto your own grass. (in this case secure your wifi!)

    Now the legalities vary from area to area.... that's another topic.

    Now I don't use my neighbor's wifi very often, and I certainly don't use one exclusively. I try to rotate as often as possible when I do use it. The way I feel if they want to give me something for free, then so be it.
  6. acidosmosis

    acidosmosis TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,350

    It's their fault for sure, but you're still violating the law. It's kind of like if I left my car door unlocked with the keys in the seat. If you got in the car and took a joyride and get caught, you're in trouble. You just stole someones car. ;-)
  7. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    In the UK, there is specific legislation as far as I'm aware that makes it illegal to deliberately connect to another persons network without permission, even if it's unencrypted.
  8. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    no, because then I would be IN your property. In this case YOUR airwaves on on mine!

    If you shine a light from your house and it illuminates my yard and I can use it, oh well....
  9. GeekWannaBe

    GeekWannaBe TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Were you copying my example on purpose as a joke, or it was coincidence? :confused:

    I don't think this example applies because as another poster said, in order to take a joy ride, you'd have to enter someone else's property and trespass.

    Here you are in the comfort of your own home, and someone is bombarding your home with a signal. You never asked for it to enter your home and you made no attempt at "hacking" the wifi. You didn't apply any software to look up key numbers or try various passwords or anything...

    You simply were sitting on the sofa with your laptop in the comfort of your own home and hit "connect" which happened to use the neighbor's signal.

    From the posts, it sounds like this is illegal, if not illegal at least wrong, or if it's not illegal yet, it will be sometime in the future.

    I don't personally do this, I have my own wi-fi and it's encrypted so I have no need. But I do have 2-3 signals from neighbor's showing up on the "available networks" list on my laptop.
  10. PanicX

    PanicX TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 669

    leave that car on my front lawn and I have every right to move it.
  11. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    hmmmm... another controversial topic.....

    as far as I'm concerned, gimme something for free that I don't have to break into, and I'll use it if it's on my property.
  12. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +422

    I think its immoral, wrong, and all other synonyms. Just cause you have the ability to do something doesn't mean you should.
  13. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    Just like picking your nose, or saying "nee" to old ladies.
  14. mephisto_007

    mephisto_007 TS Guru Posts: 228

    IMO legal or illegal sometime has nothing to do with moral... eg: a lady was riding her motorbike suddently her pants got caught by the wheel, instead choosing to help cover her up everyone just stand and stare her naked... i'm pretty sure it not illegal (unless their a law against such thing, lolz) but defiently not a nice manner to do.
  15. Smiggle

    Smiggle TS Rookie

    I just bought a router yesterday for my new laptop. i've got it up and running, but i see from available networks that my neighbour has wireless connection. How do I secure mine to stop others using it?
  16. GeekWannaBe

    GeekWannaBe TS Rookie Topic Starter

    In the setup section of your router, there should be a section for W.E.P. and you can create a KEY. When you create a key it gives you a combination of 10 alphanumeric letters (If you do 64bit I believe). Once you turn this feature on in your setup menu, then no one will be able to use your network without entering that 10 digit combination.
  17. Didou

    Didou Bowtie extraordinair! Posts: 4,274

    That alone won't suffice. For one, WPA is more efficient then WEP but you're still better off disabling SSID broadcast & activating the MAC filtering on top of that.
  18. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff TS Rookie Posts: 6,503

    Why don't you turn this to your own advantage?
    Go see those neighbours, tell them you're "advanced" in secure networking, and would they be willing to fork over some bucks to you to make their (wide open) network secure?
    When done, you should feel good (you made some extra cash), your neighbours should feel good (they are now protected) and nobody is even tempted anymore to poach someone else's bandwidth.
  19. AtK SpAdE

    AtK SpAdE TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,495

    Nice thinking RBS :approve: :approve:
  20. SOcRatEs

    SOcRatEs TechSpot Paladin Posts: 966

    I do just that RBS! and gotten paided well for it! They ussually don't know it's wide open, they think it's "plug and pray".

    However we now have hot spotting WaFI "wide area connection" through sprint and verizhon (w/ & w/o blue teeth) and wireless cafe's.
    I have some local buisnesses that deliberately open thier bandwidth with a SSID broadcast name of WELCOME.
    So I think the grey area just got cloudier or blurred.

    With OP, I think it falls more into ethics. "Finders keepers" is illegal.

    I found a wallet once that had no ID in it and had $100 in $20's, it also had a piece of paper in it with a telephone number. I called to find out it was a radio station in LA, Calif. testing "honesty" on the air. In the end I got to keep the $$$ for being an :angel: .

    I talked with a cop friend of mine about this, he said "anything you find (whether or not it's on your property) is supposed to be turned into authorities, after 90days w/o claim, you then get to keep it. " otherwise it's "unlawful possesion of stolen/lost property" :eek:
    So just finding an open wifi is just like finding my front door unlocked, it's not an invitation.
    My 2¢ worth
  21. AtK SpAdE

    AtK SpAdE TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,495


  22. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    sorry. I disagree. If I find your front door open, I'm ON your property. If you leave your property on my front lawn. it's on mine.
  23. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    I guess I've been luckier. I've found unsecured money (not in wallets or with IDs)
    many times in airplanes or on planes. Had there been ID I would have turned it in.

    The first time was $200
    the second ws $80

    if you leave cash laying around..... oh well.
  24. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +422

    The signal from the WiFi has to be sent, I would argue that I own the signal, you using my signal without my permission is wrong. You can't argue physical property lines because without a Farady cage, you can't prevent bleed over in small physical areas.
  25. Tedster

    Tedster Techspot old timer..... Posts: 6,002   +15

    the same argument can be said with someone bothered by BBQ smoke wafting over property then.....
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