Friday, April 20, 2007

WiFi thieves?

(via Trey Roberts) Reuters and the BBC are reporting on two arrests made in Worcestershire for wi-fi piggybacking, but where released under caution.

Wi-fi leechers are a growing phenomenon, as more and more houses have wireless devices and routers, the number of unprotected networks also increases. A leecher will conduct wardriving to find unprotected hotspots, and then connect to the unsecured network. The intentions of the piggybacker may be honest, the person may just want to get a free wireless connection to check his/her email. But there is a more sinister side to wardriving. For example, it has been reported that some people are using piggybacking in order to engage in illegal activities, such as infringing file-sharing, or child pornography. One can see this as an attractive proposition for criminals, as it would lay the burden of proof entirely on the person with an open access point.

The solution to the problem is to make wardriving and piggybacking illegal. In the UK there is enough legislation to prevent piggybacking and to allow the police to intervene. Firstly, the Computer Misuse Act 1990 could be applied, as section 1 reads:

"1.—(1) A person is guilty of an offence if—
(a) he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer;
(b) the access he intends to secure is unauthorised; and
(c) he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case."
However, this would be subject to interpretation, as a wardriver may not fulfil the type. The Communications Act 2003 is clear with regards to the prohibition, as it establishes an offence of up to five years for dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services. Section 125 reads:
"(1) A person who-
(a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communications service, and
(b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service,
is guilty of an offence."
Other legislation that could apply is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers, as it establishes an offence for intercepting communications.


Laurence said...

I must admit I piggy-backed in my current flat before I got broadband, in order to order said broadband and a router(!).

While it cannot be condoned, I have to wonder if illiterate consumers are really being told what's-what when it comes to encryption and WPA keys etc, or if they even care -- the 'It Just Works' mentality works both ways; sometimes very detrimentally.

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