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Is the use of unsecured Wi-Fi stealing?

February 23, 2009

I went to a shopping mall with a couple of friends yesterday and we parked ourselves at a kopitiam next to Starbucks. One of us has a habit of using his phone to check out the availability of hot spots. Sure enough, he picked up three APs (access points). One of them was unsecured, I presume it was the Starbucks one, so he logged on and did a quick e-mail check.

I saw people with notebooks seated at the kopitiam and outside, surfing the net. I’m pretty sure a handful of them were logged in thru the unsecured AP.

Most folks here seem to be indifferent about tapping into an unsecured line without permission. My friends argue that if the owner of the AP didn’t want the public to use it, then he would have password-protected it. Since he didn’t, then he must not mind it. (Yeah I can see the smiles on some of you).

The other logic is that the access point owner is paying a flat fee for the ISP connection. No matter how many users are logged on, he suffers no financial loss therefore no harm for one more person to hop on.

Not all countries have the same attitude though.

A couple of years ago there was a case in Singapore where a teenager got busted for accessing an unsecured hotspot.

It woke up the republic.

I don’t know the details but personally, I would not turn someone in for this sort of thing. I would just password protect my router. We all do stupid things when we were kids so I see no point in being petty, especially if its well within my power to turn the tap off. I don’t even see it as a crime. More like a prank.

How do you see it?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2009 10:07 am

    Thing is…there are a lot of people who dont know how to set up password. šŸ˜› Just because someone din bother to lock his front gate doesnt mean you can go in. because if you do go in, people can always sue you for trespassing. šŸ˜€

    this kind of incident happened in UK before.

    anyway, even if you do set up password….make sure it’s a complicated one because i put mine as ABCD12345, and someone actually hacked into the router and made my connection very slow. =_= i have to use special characters and alphanumeric password since then.

    Yeah, good point about the password strength. As long as end users are “blur” about these things, bandwidth hijackers will continue to have a fun time. šŸ™‚

  2. February 23, 2009 11:14 am

    If my iPhone automatically detect an unsecured access point and download email with it without me knowing, shall I say to my iPhone…bad phone!

    Anyway, in Penang, it will be wifi free for everyone. No need to take other ppl’s wifi.

    You can always tell your iPhone not to “peek” at wi-fi signals, hehe. Free wi-fi… whoa, that’s cool!

  3. February 23, 2009 1:36 pm

    It is dangerous to connect to unsecured wifi. someone might be running the sniffing tool to capture all the streaming packets.

    Not only that. Someone could use your account to commit online fraud or something and put you in the firing line.

  4. February 23, 2009 4:54 pm

    In reply to Alvin’s comment. If I placed a $10 note outside my gate and someone comes and take it, can I catch him for stealing?

    When we talk about wifi up the air, it is no one’s property, I believed.

    As for sniffing tool, there is always an encrypted packets.

    Good point. The air itself is nobody’s property although technically, broadcast frequencies including that used by wi-fi fall under certain laws.

  5. LC Teh permalink
    February 24, 2009 9:01 am

    Maybe this sounds like: If you don’t want your neighbor to enjoy giving your pet dog a hug and smile and see it wag its tail, then keep your dog behind closed gates.

    Or, if you use my airspace to receive your signals why can’t I use it too? Otherwise, can you proof I’m not exposed to harmful wi-fi signals?

    Life sure gets more complicated ain’t it? In the city animals can’t specifically mark their territories anyway. Car tires simply move elsewhere and they have to do it all over again…

    World’s getting too small, or humans getting more petty?

    IMO, when people hold tightly to the hundred little rules they live by every day of their lives (Sg flashes in front of my eyes), its easy to lose sight of the big picture. And yes, they often become petty.

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