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Old 03-03-2014, 03:53   #1
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Using an Unsecured WiFi System

This question came up in another thread and I believe it is important enough that it needs its own thread rather than continuing to hijack the other one.

Many cruisers get their internet access thru WiFi, myself included. It is so easy to drop the hook, fire up the laptop, find a signal and check email, weather, etc. But is it legal? These systems are usually privately owned and the owners are paying some provider for the connection to the internet. Is it legal for us to "borrow" that bandwidth without their knowledge and without making compensation?

In the late 80's a federal law made it illegal to access a computer system without permission. I believe that law is still on the books. However, the technology has changed considerably and WiFi systems are everywhere. These systems are easily secured, so someone wanting to prevent access has no excuse for not securing their system.

Since it is so easy for the owner to make their WiFi secure, I look at an unsecured system as though the owner is willing to share. That's probably not in agreement with the law, but I think I think the law is outdated.

Has anyone, at least in the US, been prosecuted for accessing an unsecured WiFi system?
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Old 03-03-2014, 04:29   #2
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Interesting subject.

If I was a crook the easiest way to separate rich yachties from their cash would be to set up an unsecured wifi hub and capture data as it passes through; passwords, logins, etc.

Just a caution but I wouldn't do any email, banking or buying over such connections.
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Old 03-03-2014, 05:53   #3
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Re: Using an unsecured WiFi system

When WiFi first became widespread, most people left their routers open. I thought it was great -- anyone who needs it who is passing by can use mine; I'll use others' when I'm roaming about. We all have unlimited data plans, so what does it cost me?

But then people started to have trouble with their systems slowing down as large numbers of freeloaders got on using massive amounts of data, downloading porn no doubt, and people started to lock their doors.

It's too bad! I think we should return to those days, and here is how I would propose to do it:

Let's have Guest Access which is open and free. It tracks the MAC addresses of users and will shut off users who are not people passing through, but just neighbors freeloading on your system. It will limit the amount of data you can use, and will limit the speed. Maybe it will block movie downloads, Youtube, etc.

If everybody would open Guest Access like that then the world would be a much better place.

As it is, I don't feel any qualms about occasionally using an open WiFi router. I think if it's left open, that's an invitation to use it. I don't abuse this -- don't use tons of data, and don't use such things for extended periods. Last few years this almost never happens, as open connections are almost non-existent, and I have mobile data now wherever I go anyway.

I would also never do it in places -- like some place in the Caribbean -- where unlimited data plans don't exist.
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Old 03-03-2014, 05:56   #4
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Re: Using an unsecured WiFi system

Quote:
Originally Posted by F51 View Post
This question came up in another thread and I believe it is important enough that it needs its own thread rather than continuing to hijack the other one.

Many cruisers get their internet access thru WiFi, myself included. It is so easy to drop the hook, fire up the laptop, find a signal and check email, weather, etc. But is it legal? These systems are usually privately owned and the owners are paying some provider for the connection to the internet. Is it legal for us to "borrow" that bandwidth without their knowledge and without making compensation?

In the late 80's a federal law made it illegal to access a computer system without permission. I believe that law is still on the books. However, the technology has changed considerably and WiFi systems are everywhere. These systems are easily secured, so someone wanting to prevent access has no excuse for not securing their system.
The relevant federal laws from the 80's were the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), depending on which part of the communications you are accessing (probably the CFAA). In most cases, it's a reach to try to apply either to wireless communications, unless the wireless happens to be provided by a Bank or US Government agency. Then CFAA would kick in and you'd pretty much be screwed.

Quote:
Since it is so easy for the owner to make their WiFi secure, I look at an unsecured system as though the owner is willing to share. That's probably not in agreement with the law, but I think I think the law is outdated.

Has anyone, at least in the US, been prosecuted for accessing an unsecured WiFi system?
There have been a number of arrests and a few successful prosecutions for the unauthorized access to unsecured wireless access points. The lack of legislation has been addressed in some jurisdictions in the US and by various other countries. See Legality of piggybacking - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia for details.

In most of the cited cases, the people being prosecuted were asking for the arrest. However, I don't think it would be terribly difficult for an overzealous or annoyed prosecutor with stunningly little evidence to get a conviction.

As a defendant in such a case, you'd be fighting the jurisdiction's forensic abilities, the jury's lack of security knowledge, and the semi-inifinite resources of the state to defend against something that you at least suspect is only marginally OK.

That said, I'll probably still keep on using free wireless when I need access

I'm not a lawyer and would love to hear from one on the subject...
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Old 03-03-2014, 06:07   #5
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Re: Using an unsecured WiFi system

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post

I would also never do it in places -- like some place in the Caribbean -- where unlimited data plans don't exist.
I am trying to think of a country with an unlimited data plan.




Ummmmmm.




None.

Except for the USA.

There are not too many around these days and if they are they are tied into a hime or business style bundle to a terrestrial point. Certainly not a pre-paid non-contract one that cruisers could use.
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Old 03-03-2014, 06:09   #6
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Re: Using an unsecured WiFi system

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
When WiFi first became widespread, most people left their routers open. I thought it was great -- anyone who needs it who is passing by can use mine; I'll use others' when I'm roaming about. We all have unlimited data plans, so what does it cost me?

But then people started to have trouble with their systems slowing down as large numbers of freeloaders got on using massive amounts of data, downloading porn no doubt, and people started to lock their doors.

It's too bad! I think we should return to those days, and here is how I would propose to do it:

Let's have Guest Access which is open and free. It tracks the MAC addresses of users and will shut off users who are not people passing through, but just neighbors freeloading on your system. It will limit the amount of data you can use, and will limit the speed. Maybe it will block movie downloads, Youtube, etc.

If everybody would open Guest Access like that then the world would be a much better place.

As it is, I don't feel any qualms about occasionally using an open WiFi router. I think if it's left open, that's an invitation to use it. I don't abuse this -- don't use tons of data, and don't use such things for extended periods. Last few years this almost never happens, as open connections are almost non-existent, and I have mobile data now wherever I go anyway.

I would also never do it in places -- like some place in the Caribbean -- where unlimited data plans don't exist.
DH,

This really would be a sweet system... Doubt it would ever come to fruition, but what a great concept of guest usage access ....

I would worry about the passers through accessing ...

howtodestroythecurrentcapitalistpiggovernmentwitho urjeeeeehad.com

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Old 03-03-2014, 06:12   #7
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Re: Using an unsecured WiFi system

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt RonB View Post
Interesting subject.

If I was a crook the easiest way to separate rich yachties from their cash would be to set up an unsecured wifi hub and capture data as it passes through; passwords, logins, etc.

Just a caution but I wouldn't do any email, banking or buying over such connections.
If you do your email over a VPN connection you will not expose any of your passwords or data.

Banking will be over an SSL connection and will theoretically (!) not expose any passwords or data.
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Old 03-03-2014, 06:32   #8
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Re: Using an unsecured WiFi system

prosecuted? yes

Legality of piggybacking - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

easy to prove?

not.
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Old 03-03-2014, 06:54   #9
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Re: Using an Unsecured WiFi System

I never pay for wi-fi directly. Sometimes I use wi-fi that comes "free" with the use of my marina stay, but most often I'm using complimentary "hot spots" that are provided free to the public at libraries, town centers, public landings, etc. There have been times that I have stumbled upon a private unsecured site and I have had no qualms about using it. If it's open, then it's a friendly invitation,- as others have said, security is simple to engage. If I were driving a car down a residential road and wished to turn around, I might turn into someone's private driveway and then back out in order to reverse my direction. I would be using their private space by doing this, but I would not consider it a "theft". I will likely continue not paying for my internet access. This results in times when I'm not active on the Cruiser's Forum, but this is good too. I like the change and the times when I'm without contact on the cyber world.
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Old 03-03-2014, 07:24   #10
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Re: Using an Unsecured WiFi System

Quote:
Originally Posted by F51 View Post
These systems are easily secured, so someone wanting to prevent access has no excuse for not securing their system.

Since it is so easy for the owner to make their WiFi secure, I look at an unsecured system as though the owner is willing to share.
These doors are easily locked, so someone wanting to prevent access has no excuse for not locking their door.

Since it is so easy for the owner to make their home secure, I look at an unlocked door as though the owner is willing to share.



...Beginning to see why this argument is not going to hold even a drop of water in a court of law?
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Old 03-03-2014, 07:54   #11
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Re: Using an Unsecured WiFi System

i do not pay for wifi but i DO and will continue to buy banda ancha so i have a semi secure connexion for banking and other top secret bs.....
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Old 03-03-2014, 08:18   #12
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Re: Using an Unsecured WiFi System

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
If you do your email over a VPN connection you will not expose any of your passwords or data.

Banking will be over an SSL connection and will theoretically (!) not expose any passwords or data.
Deep down I always had my doubts about that. Now we know otherwise. But we don't know what to do about it if traveling.

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i do not pay for wifi but i DO and will continue to buy banda ancha so i have a semi secure connexion for banking and other top secret bs.....
I know I'll regret this: OK Z-baby, wot's dat?
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Old 03-03-2014, 08:38   #13
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Re: Using an Unsecured WiFi System

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Deep down I always had my doubts about that. Now we know otherwise. But we don't know what to do about it if traveling.
I don't think that the NSA is misusing our banking data. Yet.

I don't think ordinary crooks have the capability to crack SSL yet.
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Old 03-03-2014, 08:53   #14
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Re: Using an unsecured WiFi system

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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
I am trying to think of a country with an unlimited data plan.









Ummmmmm.









None.



Except for the USA.



There are not too many around these days and if they are they are tied into a hime or business style bundle to a terrestrial point. Certainly not a pre-paid non-contract one that cruisers could use.



What do you mean , most countries offer unlimited broadband via terrestrial means. Many offer it via 3G/4g. I'm currently seeing 20 Mb/s throughput on my unlimited 4G plan as I type this

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Old 03-03-2014, 09:03   #15
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Re: Using an unsecured WiFi system

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What do you mean , most countries offer unlimited broadband via terrestrial means. Many offer it via 3G/4g. I'm currently seeing 20 Mb/s throughput on my unlimited 4G plan as I type this

Dave
Indeed. I've had truly unlimited data in several European countries. I downloaded nearly a terabyte of movies during a couple of weeks before my last summer's cruise without a hiccup.

Even my mobile phone data is unlimited in the UK -- on TMobile, once you finish your allowance, you can go on as long as you like -- just at a somewhat throttled rate.

Wow, 20Mb/s on a mobile phone is incredible. Who would have thought. I remember not so long ago that a T1 line (what was that, 1.6Mb/s?) or an E1 line (2 MB/s) was still considered a heavy-duty, enterprise-type connection good for a couple hundred people in an office. And we paid a couple thousand dollars a month for it.

Now I have 100Mb/s at home! And it costs me like $25/month. Now that's progress! And the T1 line speed is considered slow and obsolete for my pocket mobile phone, which is why God invented LTE!!
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