There has been litigation, on both sides of the atlantic, to punish individuals who use unsecured wireless networks. What a waste of time – and how unfair for the poor buggers that get caught.
At worst, using an unsecured wireless connection is a victimless ‘crime’ – no-one gets hurt. A little common sense needs to be applied here. As I see it, the rules are as follows:
Rules for the connection owner.
- If you don’t want anyone to use your connection, then secure it.
- If you don’t secure your connection, don’t complain if someone uses it.
Rules for the WiFi freeloader.
- Connect to the Internet on the open connection only.
- Do not access anything else – even if it isn’t protected. Whatever the owner keeps on his shared folders is likely none of your business.
- Don’t do anything nasty. Like accessing dodgy websites. Or using the connection for the purposes of cracking. Or piracy.
If you follow these simple instructions, everyone should be happy. Except that there is always going to be someone who tries to sue. In the light of this, I have some advice for the freeloader.
- Don’t be obvious about your freeloading. Sitting for hour after hour in your car, whilst playing on your laptop, is not very clever. Returning to the same site time and again is also not clever.
- If you freeload, freeload when you need to. Not all the time. Perhaps your neighbour has an unsecured connection – if so, don’t leave your computer connected to it 24/7.
- Don’t give your computer a name that might give you away. Having it identify itself as, for example, Dave’s Computer is a bad idea – unless, of course, your name isn’t Dave. Or David.
- Don’t share any folders yourself. That would be seriously dim. If you do share folders, then make sure that they’re encrypted.
- Turn on your firewall, and make sure your computer is networked in stealth mode – if possible. That way it won’t respond to ping.
- Finally, if you can mask your MAC address, do it.
Just a few thoughts. Happy freeloading – and try not to get caught.
(Addendum) – 2016.
Whilst I might have felt this way at the time, I am now very chary of accessing free wifi – and certainly not for anything that requires secure access. It’s asking for trouble, and not just from a legal standpoint. It’s a trust thing – if you don’t know who’s providing the access then you might be opening yourself up to a man-in-the-middle attack on your computer. 2016 is a different world to 2005, with internet bandits being a lot more wily and a lot more malicious. Be careful!