"Borrowing WIFI"
April 23, 2005 11:36 AM   Subscribe

So, as it turns out, my laptop links to someone elses wireless network at here at home. What are the implications of surfing via someone elses internet connection?
posted by Keith Talent to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
That's entirely dependant on your region's laws. Where do you live?
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:39 AM on April 23, 2005

Best answer: Discussed at length here. I'm sure people have new thoughts on the matter though, but it might be good to read the long thread to get yourself caught up on the main points.
posted by fionab at 11:46 AM on April 23, 2005

Response by poster: Canada
posted by Keith Talent at 11:46 AM on April 23, 2005

Do you like your neighbors?
posted by Rothko at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2005

Response by poster: I do now that I'm borrowing their connection.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2005

It is so incredibly easy to secure a wireless connection, that I can only presume that those who do not do it do not care. Don't hack even breakable security and you should be fine.
posted by grouse at 12:13 PM on April 23, 2005

I do now that I'm borrowing their connection.

See if you can triangulate where the signal is coming from, then.

If you can join, anyone can. That means anyone with an agenda for mischief or crime (e.g. cracking or child p0rn etc.) can get your neighbors in trouble.

Be a good neighbor, let 'em know. Help them tighten it up. Who knows, you might get free access from them in return.

Besides, Canadians are supposed to have a reputation for being nice people. Don't let us down. ;)
posted by Rothko at 12:26 PM on April 23, 2005

I have some experience on the subject, as we "borrowed" wifi signal when we lived in an apartment in Edmonton

This question hasn't been addressed in the courts yet*, so no one knows for sure. If memory serves, using a wifi network is likely not illegal if:
  • You haven't broken any encryption they had, otherwise you break the same law that prevents you from viewing pay-per-view satellite without paying.
  • You don't modify any files on their network, otherwise you could be guilty of "computer trespass"
  • You don't perform any illegal acts while using the connection.
I don't have links to the actual statutes for these yet. Let me dig a little.

*A year and a half ago, the RCMP arrested a man for downloading child porn using someone's unsecured residential wifi connection. Along with the last charge in my list, they've charged him with theft of telecommunications. When I emailed the RCMP to ask whether they thought he was comitting a crime by just using the connection, they declined to comment on a matter before the courts.

Asking nicely is probably your safest bet.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:01 PM on April 23, 2005

Some guy in Florida was just charged with a felony for using someone else's wireless connection.

However, the specifics of this case are not entirely clear, and there may be more to it than that.
posted by dersins at 1:45 PM on April 23, 2005

From dersins link:
"While this person was accessing his computer, little icons appeared on his computer screen, or his monitor and this puzzled him because he did not access any of those areas."
What icons would (could?) appear if someone was simply using the network?
posted by mischief at 2:29 PM on April 23, 2005

I'm of the opinion that as long as you didn't have to hack your way onto the network than it is no different than if:

a) a neighbour plays his stereo real loud and you can hear it
b) a neighbour has a bright light in a backyard and you are able to read the newspaper with it
c) a neighbour projects a movie onto his wall in the backyard and you can clearly see it from your side of the yard.
d) eating apples that fall into your yard from the tree in the neighbours yard.

Of course, that's just my opinion and doesn't mean it would fly in a court of law, but feel free to base your arguments on the points above and let us know how it works out, assuming you get busted.
posted by furtive at 3:17 PM on April 23, 2005

Keep in mind that your neighbour might have an unsecured wireless network for reasons other than naivety; don't do anything on the Internet unencrypted that you wouldn't want your neighbour, or anyone else who has found the unsecured connection, to see.
posted by mendel at 3:18 PM on April 23, 2005

What icons would (could?) appear if someone was simply using the network?

The obvious thing is that shared folders on the guy outside's computer could appear automatically on other computers. That doesn't quite fit the description about "areas", but I've no idea what would.
posted by cillit bang at 4:05 PM on April 23, 2005

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