Thieving Thin Air: Wifi Arrest

By Hazel Last edited 137 months ago
Thieving Thin Air: Wifi Arrest

Wonderful, wizard wifi. It keeps the Crackberry addicts happy, the laptop lovers mobile and coffee shops full of latte-quaffing surfers. We've marked out where to find free wifi around town and want to see more little flags on the map so even more of you can enjoy internet access wherever you may end up. However, there seems to be a gossamer-thin line between free and stolen which was crossed just this week - and it was a bit of surprise to us as that line doesn't always exist...

An unnamed man was arrested for using an unsecured wifi connection outside a house in Stamford Brook, West London, on Tuesday. Police Community Support Officers had spotted him with laptop on the residential street and arrested him after he admitted he was there to use free, unsecured wifi. This is an offence under the Communications Act 2003 and the man has been bailed while the case is with the Metropolitan Police's computer crime unit.

The arrest of the illegal wifi user seems a bit heavy-handed when there must be hundreds of similar cases across the city every day. If you're using something that is wifi-capable while there is an unsecured wifi connection nearby, it will be detected and it will try to connect to it. You can choose to acces the internet through the unsecured wifi connection or not, which is where the aspect of crime / illegal behaviour enters the situation because you have to actively, consciously choose to use something that you know you're not permitted to use...

But... but... but if there's no password protection, then the issue of permission is completely removed, isn't it? All that lovely, fast, wireless internet access is just hanging there in the air, for anyone and anything to help themselves. It's like leaving a fancy car unlocked with the keys in the ignition on a quiet street near a crime hotspot. It will inevitably be nicked. While the arrest of the unnamed man sets a precedent for all those considering a happy afternoon of surfing on a street corner, free of charge, courtesy of an unprotected broadband wireless router nearby, this case needs also to be a precedent for all those who haven't set a password for their internet connection. Accessing wireless broadband without permission or paying for it is a crime; setting up a wireless broadband connection with no password or protection is criminally stupid. Get to your routers and set that code, and let's not hear any more about this unlikely thievery.

Last Updated 23 August 2007