Tech Guy Gives Lesson in Security and Good Manners to Wi-Fi Stealing Lady

When she calls Leo Laporte’s show claiming her Wi-Fi Internet access has suddenly “disappeared”, a lady gets served a lesson in security and good manners by the tech guy himself.

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34 Responses to Tech Guy Gives Lesson in Security and Good Manners to Wi-Fi Stealing Lady

  1. Apparently either the lady knew she was stealing, or she thought free Wi-Fi came with living in her neighborhood. Funny.

    Either way she wanted Leo to help her to continue to steal. Good old Leo Laporte. I remember years ago people would come into the stores thinking they were computer experts, after listening to Leo. It’s true that knowledge is power, but misunderstood knowledge is an ignorance that many don’t usually forgive.

  2. Apparently either the lady knew she was stealing, or she thought free Wi-Fi came with living in her neighborhood. Funny.

    Either way she wanted Leo to help her to continue to steal. Good old Leo Laporte. I remember years ago people would come into the stores thinking they were computer experts, after listening to Leo. It's true that knowledge is power, but misunderstood knowledge is an ignorance that many don't usually forgive.

  3. This is one of the largest misconceptions on the net and is propagated by the providers because it only serves to benefit them.
    Using an open Wi-Fi connection is not illegal. There are several regulations and laws that in fact support this.
    The FCC has always held true that ANY radio wave transmitted over the public airways belongs to the public. this is true with ALL radio waves even military and private corporations. It is up to the provider of the radio wave to make the information unusable.
    Unlike when you steal power. The use of the signal does not constitute stealing because the use of the signal by the second party does not in any way caused the decrease in used of the signal by the first party nor have you added to the first party’s cost.
    The signal is not unlike any light source (in fact they are both radio waves). If the first party places a light in his yard then he can not make claim that others in his naberhood are stealing the light that falls on to there property.
    The signal in most cases that is received by the second party has been sent away from the property of the first party with no expectation of ever retrieveing it. So in fact the first party is trowing away the signal. And this signal is being placed on the second party’s private property with out permission. so therefor the second party has a right supported by law to take claim of the signal as his own.
    it is leagley totally upon the heads of the first party to make the signal unuseble if he does not wish for his naberhood to use the signal.

    • Wow, you mean you’ve never heard of the term “Theft of Services”? It means that secured or unsecured you should not be utilizing the wifi of someone else without providing them with adequate remuneration. As to your FCC dictates, you’ve got that wrong too, there is no such thing as “public radio signals” If you want to transmit on a pre-made FCC licensed radio, great, you do that. Now go ahead and try building something that transmits in an off frequency. See You in jail. FCC regulates and licenses ALL frequencies in use in the U.S. check any radio frequency emitting device and you’ll see the sticker.

  4. That’s ridiculous. Using someone’s Wifi does diminish it – you’re using their.

    If you don’t believe that Ill be more than happy to set up my laptop next to your house and download some torrents. After all, if they don’t diminish your useage, you shouldn’t care.

    And the whole “protect it if you don’t want it stolen” argument is equally ridiculous. That’s like saying it’s ok to steal someone’s bike because it wasn’t locked up.

    • I am sorry .. you seam to be confusing bandwidth (infomation) with radio signals transmitted over the public airway.
      Receiving (listening) to the wifi signal does not diminish the signal. It is the Signal that you are receiving. This is true just as having a radio on will not diminish the radio stations signal.
      Bandwidth is Information, and information can be stolen. However once the information has been discarded it is no longer is owned. Any signal not used is automaticly discarded. Just as the light I spoke of in my post.
      Before Digital phones, when you could hear a conversation of cell phones with a scanner. It was legal to listen to any conversation you could receive. (again tried and proven in courts many times) It is once again dependent on the first party to make that information unusable (scramblers)
      Pulling unencrypted information out of the air is not wire tapping. and that information can be used by law enforcement. (however the encryption process of encripted information is protected by law and breaking the encryption is not leagle)
      Information passing down wires has different protection than information passing in the air under the law.
      There is one more point to be made.
      As it is legal to use signals passing in the public airways and the use of any information obtained there in. It is not legal for the first party to allow public access to his network. By allowing the use (by not protecting it) he is distributing a commodity with out the permission of the provider. He could be held liable for this action.

      • No, Im not confusing anything.

        If you’re arguing anything about “listening” to signals, then you’re arguing a moot point because this article isn’t about listening, it’s about using.

        You seem to be confusing the subject of Leo’s awesome response.

  5. I can’t really believe that “ANY radio wave transmitted over the public airways belongs to the public” and “It is up to the provider of the radio wave to make the information unusable.” Wouldn’t that mean it is legal to wiretap plain text communications because the sender ‘apparently’ didn’t want it to be secret, which I’m pretty sure is illegal?
    Also, it’s not only about listening, but also knowingly using someone else’s resource which may cause ‘damage’ (in form of money for traffic) to this person.

    • Yes, any and all radio waves that are coming into your domicile you can legally listen in on. However, just because you are allowed to listen in on them does not mean you are allowed to send data back to change what it is sending you.

      As long as you are a listener you are in the clear. As soon as you start talking you are not.

      I’ve got my HAM radio license so I am legally allowed to broadcast on certain bands, however anyone picking them up may not legally transmit on those frequencies unless they too have a HAM radio license.

      It is illegal to listen in on certain frequencies though (900 Mhz, where cell phones are located) mainly because of the sensitive nature of the data being communicated. However no-one will be the wiser if you do so in your home.

      Bandwidth is something you pay for, and it is a limited resource, as soon as anyone comes along to use your bandwidth, whether you are using it all or not, they are stealing as they are now limiting the bandwidth you have available. They are using up resources you paid for.

      It is like someone came by and stole electricity from you. It is like bandwidth, you pay for a certain amount and now they are depriving you of resources they have paid for.

  6. This is one of the largest misconceptions on the net and is propagated by the providers because it only serves to benefit them.

    Using an open Wi-Fi connection is not illegal. There are several regulations and laws that in fact support this.

    The FCC has always held true that ANY radio wave transmitted over the public airways belongs to the public. this is true with ALL radio waves even military and private corporations. It is up to the provider of the radio wave to make the information unusable.

    Unlike when you steal power. The use of the signal does not constitute stealing because the use of the signal by the second party does not in any way caused the decrease in used of the signal by the first party nor have you added to the first party's cost.

    The signal is not unlike any light source (in fact they are both radio waves). If the first party places a light in his yard then he can not make claim that others in his naberhood are stealing the light that falls on to there property.

    The signal in most cases that is received by the second party has been sent away from the property of the first party with no expectation of ever retrieveing it. So in fact the first party is trowing away the signal. And this signal is being placed on the second party's private property with out permission. so therefor the second party has a right supported by law to take claim of the signal as his own.

    it is leagley totally upon the heads of the first party to make the signal unuseble if he does not wish for his naberhood to use the signal.

    • Wow, you mean you've never heard of the term "Theft of Services"? It means that secured or unsecured you should not be utilizing the wifi of someone else without providing them with adequate remuneration. As to your FCC dictates, you've got that wrong too, there is no such thing as "public radio signals" If you want to transmit on a pre-made FCC licensed radio, great, you do that. Now go ahead and try building something that transmits in an off frequency. See You in jail. FCC regulates and licenses ALL frequencies in use in the U.S. check any radio frequency emitting device and you'll see the sticker.

  7. That's ridiculous. Using someone's Wifi does diminish it – you're using their.

    If you don't believe that Ill be more than happy to set up my laptop next to your house and download some torrents. After all, if they don't diminish your useage, you shouldn't care.

    And the whole "protect it if you don't want it stolen" argument is equally ridiculous. That's like saying it's ok to steal someone's bike because it wasn't locked up.

    • I am sorry .. you seam to be confusing bandwidth (infomation) with radio signals transmitted over the public airway.

      Receiving (listening) to the wifi signal does not diminish the signal. It is the Signal that you are receiving. This is true just as having a radio on will not diminish the radio stations signal.

      Bandwidth is Information, and information can be stolen. However once the information has been discarded it is no longer is owned. Any signal not used is automaticly discarded. Just as the light I spoke of in my post.

      Before Digital phones, when you could hear a conversation of cell phones with a scanner. It was legal to listen to any conversation you could receive. (again tried and proven in courts many times) It is once again dependent on the first party to make that information unusable (scramblers)

      Pulling unencrypted information out of the air is not wire tapping. and that information can be used by law enforcement. (however the encryption process of encripted information is protected by law and breaking the encryption is not leagle)

      Information passing down wires has different protection than information passing in the air under the law.

      There is one more point to be made.

      As it is legal to use signals passing in the public airways and the use of any information obtained there in. It is not legal for the first party to allow public access to his network. By allowing the use (by not protecting it) he is distributing a commodity with out the permission of the provider. He could be held liable for this action.

      • No, Im not confusing anything.

        If you're arguing anything about "listening" to signals, then you're arguing a moot point because this article isn't about listening, it's about using.

        You seem to be confusing the subject of Leo's awesome response.

  8. On the other hand, you can argue that having no security mechanisms for authorization set, the intention of the owner of the wifi spot is to implicitly allow others to use it. In particular if (which I’m not sure of) all wifi routers nowadays have wireless encryption enabled by default.
    I’m not a lawyer, but I can imagine that laws at least in some states / countries might see it that way. However, probably some of these laws were passed in times when people using radio communication devices usually knew about their stuff – this doesn’t make the laws less valid, but it can be an explanation of the existence of a gray area here.

  9. Conway is correct as far as it pertains to ‘listening’ to any source of EM. However, there is no provision that permits you to send requests or otherwise access the access point. This remains a grey area.
    I personally leave a portion of my network open so that if passers by or my neighbour wants to borrow a cup of wifi, they can. This is the same method is used by many coffee shops etc, though they are getting more restrictive as we slowly iron out the legal implications.
    Wiretapping laws are open to interpretation because in order for them to come into play there needs to be a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ in the communication. My read of this is ‘no encryption = no expectation of privacy”. If I post my email and phone number on a piece of paper on the inside of my living room window, there is no expectation that those walking by would not be able to contact me. There is no way for the user to tell whether a network is intentionally or negligently left open. If you own a car but don’t know how to drive it, you are still responsible for what happens – why is it any different with communications technology?
    If however the AP owner makes any attempt to protect his system (even a really broken one like WEP), then they have and expectation of privacy and it would be illegal to break or bypass those measures.
    Many agencies and LEOs would disagree with me, but until we have some decent case law or legislation, there’s no direction.

  10. I can't really believe that "ANY radio wave transmitted over the public airways belongs to the public" and "It is up to the provider of the radio wave to make the information unusable." Wouldn't that mean it is legal to wiretap plain text communications because the sender 'apparently' didn't want it to be secret, which I'm pretty sure is illegal?

    Also, it's not only about listening, but also knowingly using someone else's resource which may cause 'damage' (in form of money for traffic) to this person.

    • Yes, any and all radio waves that are coming into your domicile you can legally listen in on. However, just because you are allowed to listen in on them does not mean you are allowed to send data back to change what it is sending you.

      As long as you are a listener you are in the clear. As soon as you start talking you are not.

      I've got my HAM radio license so I am legally allowed to broadcast on certain bands, however anyone picking them up may not legally transmit on those frequencies unless they too have a HAM radio license.

      It is illegal to listen in on certain frequencies though (900 Mhz, where cell phones are located) mainly because of the sensitive nature of the data being communicated. However no-one will be the wiser if you do so in your home.

      Bandwidth is something you pay for, and it is a limited resource, as soon as anyone comes along to use your bandwidth, whether you are using it all or not, they are stealing as they are now limiting the bandwidth you have available. They are using up resources you paid for.

      It is like someone came by and stole electricity from you. It is like bandwidth, you pay for a certain amount and now they are depriving you of resources they have paid for.

  11. On the other hand, you can argue that having no security mechanisms for authorization set, the intention of the owner of the wifi spot is to implicitly allow others to use it. In particular if (which I'm not sure of) all wifi routers nowadays have wireless encryption enabled by default.

    I'm not a lawyer, but I can imagine that laws at least in some states / countries might see it that way. However, probably some of these laws were passed in times when people using radio communication devices usually knew about their stuff – this doesn't make the laws less valid, but it can be an explanation of the existence of a gray area here.

  12. Conway is correct as far as it pertains to 'listening' to any source of EM. However, there is no provision that permits you to send requests or otherwise access the access point. This remains a grey area.

    I personally leave a portion of my network open so that if passers by or my neighbour wants to borrow a cup of wifi, they can. This is the same method is used by many coffee shops etc, though they are getting more restrictive as we slowly iron out the legal implications.

    Wiretapping laws are open to interpretation because in order for them to come into play there needs to be a 'reasonable expectation of privacy' in the communication. My read of this is 'no encryption = no expectation of privacy". If I post my email and phone number on a piece of paper on the inside of my living room window, there is no expectation that those walking by would not be able to contact me. There is no way for the user to tell whether a network is intentionally or negligently left open. If you own a car but don't know how to drive it, you are still responsible for what happens – why is it any different with communications technology?

    If however the AP owner makes any attempt to protect his system (even a really broken one like WEP), then they have and expectation of privacy and it would be illegal to break or bypass those measures.

    Many agencies and LEOs would disagree with me, but until we have some decent case law or legislation, there's no direction.

  13. It’s certainly illegal here in the UK to use an open wi-fi connection unless it is a public hotspot at which one can buy access to the internet or it is given away free intentionally.

    It may not be illegal to listen to open radio on any frequency (I own a scanner) but bandwidth theft IS theft, and that is a criminal offence.

    @Lotek, to use your analogy, if someone steals from a store with no CCTV so that theft goes unnoticed, who is responsible legally. It’s still the shoplifter. In this case this is theft. It’s not about privacy it’s about taking something without paying for it.

  14. It's certainly illegal here in the UK to use an open wi-fi connection unless it is a public hotspot at which one can buy access to the internet or it is given away free intentionally.

    It may not be illegal to listen to open radio on any frequency (I own a scanner) but bandwidth theft IS theft, and that is a criminal offence.

    @Lotek, to use your analogy, if someone steals from a store with no CCTV so that theft goes unnoticed, who is responsible legally. It's still the shoplifter. In this case this is theft. It's not about privacy it's about taking something without paying for it.

  15. In my opinion, legal or not, she was wrong in what she did. Whithout the consent of the purchaser of the WiFi her using it is stealing. I have had people on my system using the bandwidth it sure slows my system down. I have limited upload and download amounts per 24 hours and if I go over those, by downloading a game or something, my connection is slower then dial up. It’s what I have to deal with by using sattilite internet out here in the country. However, what bothered me was her not caring about the stealing. She probably plugs her moblie home into her neighbors electric outlets and “borrows” phone service/cable/etc. as well. Someone is paying for her luxeries, and in this economy it’s not fair to ask others, who are probably struggling also, to pay for her extras.
    BTW does anyone know how large a radius WiFi works around a standerd personal unit? One house/apartment building? or one block? I live in the middle of 15 acres in the country and I haven’t worried about people being able to hack my system, but I’m starting to re think that. Would I be voulnerable from the road- 7 acres away, or would someone have to drive up my driveway to get the close enough to get the signal?

    • Well the best way to check would be with a laptop or something, connect to your network and walk around and see where the signal drops out. If your router is indoors with the nearest contact being 7 acres away, you *should* be fine, however I was able to access my aunts neighbours WiFi and they live a fair ways out as well.

  16. In my opinion, legal or not, she was wrong in what she did. Whithout the consent of the purchaser of the WiFi her using it is stealing. I have had people on my system using the bandwidth it sure slows my system down. I have limited upload and download amounts per 24 hours and if I go over those, by downloading a game or something, my connection is slower then dial up. It's what I have to deal with by using sattilite internet out here in the country. However, what bothered me was her not caring about the stealing. She probably plugs her moblie home into her neighbors electric outlets and "borrows" phone service/cable/etc. as well. Someone is paying for her luxeries, and in this economy it's not fair to ask others, who are probably struggling also, to pay for her extras.

    BTW does anyone know how large a radius WiFi works around a standerd personal unit? One house/apartment building? or one block? I live in the middle of 15 acres in the country and I haven't worried about people being able to hack my system, but I'm starting to re think that. Would I be voulnerable from the road- 7 acres away, or would someone have to drive up my driveway to get the close enough to get the signal?

    • Well the best way to check would be with a laptop or something, connect to your network and walk around and see where the signal drops out. If your router is indoors with the nearest contact being 7 acres away, you *should* be fine, however I was able to access my aunts neighbours WiFi and they live a fair ways out as well.

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