Stealing WiFi Access

There has been much talk in the news recently about stealing WiFi from your neighbors. I have a middle of the road point of view on this that I think most of my fellow geeks will agree with. There is much confusion as to what is okay and what is not okay. To help clear up some of this confusion I’ve created a simple grid that you can now reference whenever you come across a WiFi hotspot.

  All Good Totally Uncool
Is it an open access point?  
Is is protected by WEP, etc.?  
Is it located in a coffee shop?  
Are you using it for illegal activities?  
Are you splitting the bill with your neighbor?  
Are you just using it for email while your connection is down?  
Are you sniffing traffic or browsing their network neighborhood?  
Is the SSID NETGEAR and the password “admin”?  
Did you sniff traffic to obtain passwords in order to access the hotspot?  
Is the SSID named “FBI Headquarters” or “CIA HQ”?  

I look at it this way; if you knowingly leave your access point open to the world then it’s perfectly okay for me to use it, however, I should respect your kindness and not use it for malicious activities of any kind. The exception to this is what I call the “Idiot WiFi Hotspot”, which is like picking on the retard during recess. If someone is too stupid to at least change the admin password then they have no idea what’s going on with their WiFi and, while taking advantage of this idiot might be tempting, it’s just not very cool. The only exception to the IWFH rule is is if your connection is down and you want to check your email or read the news.

If you had to sniff packets or crack a WEP key to gain access to a hotspot then you’ve just broken the law and are a total douche bag. I liken this to someone breaking into your cable box and siphoning free HBO.

We’re not talking quantum physics here people. If you knock on someone’s door and they either don’t answer or the sign says “Closed” then you don’t just come on in. Use common sense and the handy reference table above and you most likely won’t be arrested for stealing WiFi.

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