Watch it, Wardrivers

Joined
Dec 8, 2003
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Kansas City, Missouri
Who knew there would be a crackdown on library Wifi ...

I wonder if there could be more problems in store for chasers this way as time goes on.

My thinking is that if a library even cares and doesn't want people to access their networks, it's their responsibility to secure the thing in the first place. They should know better. On the other hand, this just may be a case of not having anything better for the police to bust in Alaska. More than anything, this just sounds like a kid who can't afford his own broadband. Hilarious image it conjurs up of him sitting in the parking lot playing WoW. Sounds like it isn't the first time.
 
What law did he actually break? The library may have a TOS, but breaking it is not a criminal offense.

I'm guessing there's more to this story, as is always the case. Like downloading gb's worth of data and using it every night.
 
The only thing that would make it against the law, imo, is if he was using the network to do something illegal ... like sending threats or something. I'm not sure why MMORPGs would be considered illegal. It would get weird for neighbors if the guy sat on the street for hours in front of their house using up bandwidth, but there aren't that many places with wardriving laws that I'm aware of. Routers can be timed to shut down after hours, so I would think the library would have to press some sort of complaint for this guy to really be in trouble.
 
It's illegal because it is considered unauthorized access and therefore, technically, trespassing on private property. It'd be no different than if someone left their front door open and weren't home. Just because it's open doesn't mean you have the right to walk in. If you're serious about still doing wardriving in a safe way, you need to find a card that will allow you to reassign the mac address of the nic. After that, you should probably open an ssh tunnel or vpn to another system so your page requests aren't recorded along with the IP. Otherwise, the library would be able to notify the site maintainer that requests from their IP were logged to the site and of course that means they can get account information associated with the IP.

Granted, it's all a lot of work, but it's all very possible. Since they're not building ice towers anymore, I'm sure they have lots of that time! :)
 
I can see the unauthorized access thing, but here's my deal ... it's a broadcast signal. All other broadcast signals are regulated by the FCC. If a person creates an unauthorized radio broadcast that can be intercepted, they can be fined or whatever. But now we have millions of homes and public offices (like libraries) pouring their signals into the airwaves everyday. I've always felt like they should be the ones regulated, not the geeks who figure out how to access them. I think the focus is screwed up. I don't need to wardrive anymore, just because I have access to what I need everywhere now ... but still think stuff like this is goofy.
 
It is regulated by the power and frequency that the unit can use. In the 2.4GHz band you're not aloud to exceed 30mW of power for any channel on WiFi.

About the broadcast signal, yes it is. But, just because you can receive the signal does not mean you can transmit to it. It's no different than listening to a private ham radio repeater. Even if you have your license, you need permission to transmit on it.

Ultimately the bottom line is you're using something you didn't ask permission for.
 
What if I was walking down the sidewalk on a dark night and I needed to read something. The problem is, it is too dark, and I can't see anything. I keep walking and come across a house with their light on. Staying on the sidewalk, I'm able to use the light from the house to read my note.

Did I steal their light? It was just floating through the air and I happened to grab some of it.

If someone's wi-fi signal comes into my apartment and I use it, I have in no way trespassed. It may be unauthorized access, but there are no laws regarding the access of wi-fi signals. Nobody has leased this signal from the FCC. He probably couldn't even sue me civilly, unless I caused some sort of monetary damages. Unless he's paying by the kb, there's likely no damage.
 
The trespassing comes by accessing the network, not the signal. Like I said, reception of the signal is obviously not against the law but accessing the network is. Trust me, you'd lose in civil court.

It might also be best to not call this "wardriving". Wardriving is simply the mapping of networks, be it open or not. It's when wardriving turns into unauthorized access that it becomes illegal.

Here's an article that better explains the legality of "wardriving" and "network use".

http://www.legalaffairs.org/issues/May-June-2005/review_koerner_mayjun05.msp
 
I would think it is a little fuzzy on then when do you have permission to use the "broadcaster's" network after reading the article. Would a sign out doors saying free internet be permission enough? On a side note shouldn't there be, even if legally there isn't, some responsibility on the "broadcaster" to make it noticeable that he/she doesn’t want some one to use that network.

On another note. I believe my computer sometimes automatically establishes connections with wireless networks. So imagine an area covered by two wifi networks, what if I'm initially on a network but then for some reason the computer automatically switches to the other(lets say the power went out on one network I was using or the internet connection went down), so now without knowing I'm now using another network without permission. I believe this would mean I'm illegally using the network, but at the same time is it? Isn't there something that to be convicted of a law I must be aware of perpetrating it? I know this is a little extreme but isn’t the last statement the basis for an insanity defense?


p.s. I know some may feel satisified with the answer given in the article, but I just wanted to beat the question to death. oh and this is why I couldn't be a lawyer...
 
A sign would be reason enough to use the network, so long as it didn't make mention that it was available inside.

In terms of not knowing, well, you can be convicted if they can prove the responsibility of knowing what network you're on is yours. Granted, the network provider should lock down their network if they do not want anyone without permission on it, but again, you can't walk into a house just because the door is open.

Being parked outside the network definitely shows he was knowingly accessing the network.
 
I leave my wireless network open to anyone that wishes to use it simply because I use other peoples wireless networks. kind of a give and take thing. I monitor traffic regularly and have NEVER found anyone abusing my generosity. I do think that the fact that windows automatically connects to the strongest unsecured wireless signal(unless you set it to do otherwise) leaves some room for debate about who is responsible when it comes to the legality issue. I can see microsoft in court about this issue in the future or issue a patch to change the protocall. I also think that the manufacturers of broadband routers and modems, as well as the isp's that provide the hardware, should play an active role in educating people about this issue. My dsl modem came preset to allow unsecured wireless access. So if my neighbor buys a new laptop, turns it on and automatically picks up, and connects to my signal and I want to complain, who do I complain to? Microsoft for allowing his machine to auto-connect via their software, 2wire for presetting my dsl modem to allow unsecured wireless access, or my isp for not providing proper documentation with the hardware they sent?? Surely it can't be solely laid upon my computer ignorant neighbor. But thats just my 2 cents.
 
I think the law can be nitpicked forever, but it all comes down to common courtesy and 'do unto others'. It's just not right to use other people's resources without permission. That is all the law is trying to do. Most people I know do not feel comfortable with strangers parking outside to use their internet connection. I have been working with computers for 14 years, and even I have difficulty figuring out how to turn on the encryption on routers and get the key to work on each PC. It's not easy, and that is the reason many routers are open.

All you have to do is ask. Hotels are great about letting chasers use their connection if you just ask. It doesn't take any time at all and solves all the legal and ethical issues.

As for the library though, if their access policies are not clearly outlined as prohibiting use after-hours, then I think the police have no case to arrest the guy - unless he was on library property (in their parking lot). If an access point is advertised as being free and open for public use, it shouldn't be a crime to use it no matter what the hours are, unless there is a sign or other clear directives indicating otherwise. Unless there is more to this news story (most likely there is, as others have said), I think the police may have incurred some liability for making this arrest.
 
This is something like the fourth case reported in a year, with all representing rather extreme cases of Wi-fi napping. Fortunately the issue is still in the realm of common law trespass, so there's a healthy give-and-take on the particulars. God help us all if they start trying to pass laws specifically trying to address the issues.

What's trespass? It's using or occupying someone's property without permission. The property can be physical, like a parking lot, or virtual like a network. The most obvious defense is that one didn't know that the use or presence on the property was unauthorized. Unless the trespass is flagrant and obvious given posted signs (fences, fence-pages, firewalls?), applying common sense (or repeated), then the trespasser merely can be required to leave.

Trespass is nullified by the granting of an easement of some sort. And there are, I think, about as many kinds of easements as there are years since the Magna Carta. A useful example is the I-think-it's-called prescriptive easement. Suppose I own some land across which, say, people without criminal intent take a short cut. I let them do it year after year, don't put up a fence, don't post signs. Then one day the cops decide to start ticketing for trespass. Not only can't they do that IMHO, but under the law I may have actually granted a prescriptive easement under which the public may continue to use the the property in that manner.

The after-hours library Wi-fi case is altogether different IMHO, from physically entering the library by an unlocked door under circumstances that any reasonable person would know is after-hours. The property in question is the library's open-access network. If they invite open public access to the network and don't exercise even slight care to restrict such access, then I can't see how it's trespass.

Now the parking lot is a separate issue. The library can limit after-hours access to their parking lot by policy or practice, and there are some good reasons for doing this.

But personally I don't think this will ever be a big issue. As encryption becomes easier and the default for wireless routers, unauthorized open access will become rarer and rarer. Broadband wireless will become the new wherever access point.
 
IMO, if it's open, when every wifi router made has the ability to lock it down, and they don't, then it's free game. It's not the same as walking in an open door. That open door is on private property and you must access that property to go through that door. No so with a wifi signal. It carries over into the public right of way.

If they had a bright light in their yard shining out onto the street and your got a flat tire in front of their house, are you stealing the light if you use some of it to change your tire?

As far as I am concerned, if it's open, it's free to use. If they don't want it used, lock it down or shut it down after hours. It's not brain surgery, it only takes a few clicks to do it. Most of the new ones have buttons on them with a couple of presses it's locked up.

I have two wireless networks where I live. If you come through here, they are labeled CHASENET and free for anyone to use. Like someone else said, on the rare ocassion I use someone else's, I too leave mine open for someone else.

All that aside, I have three means to access the Internet from my chase vehicle. Any gung-ho law enforcement would be hard pressed to prove which one of them I was using at any given time by only a side of the road investigation. 99% of the time they don't have a clue what all that stuff in the chase vehicle is for anyway.

I'm like the other's. There is certainly more to this story than is in that article. as evidenced by that last sentence:

the authorities claim this greedy gamer's notorious for WiFi piggybacking and has been "chased out of a number of locations" in the area.

All that said, using it for something illegal you shouldn't be doing with ANY internet connection might have it's own legal implications.
 
It is regulated by the power and frequency that the unit can use. In the 2.4GHz band you're not aloud to exceed 30mW of power for any channel on WiFi.

About the broadcast signal, yes it is. But, just because you can receive the signal does not mean you can transmit to it. It's no different than listening to a private ham radio repeater. Even if you have your license, you need permission to transmit on it.

Ultimately the bottom line is you're using something you didn't ask permission for.

Ethically, you might have a good argument. Legally, wardriving (with bandwidth leaching) is ambiguous. Using someone's open bandwidth is not against the law anywhere that I know of, unless the router is encrypting the signal and some sort of attempt was made to break the encryption.

Windows XP is configured out of the box to just connect to whatever the hell it sees. If you made this illegal, you would have hundreds of thousands of people unwittingly commiting crimes every day just by powering up their laptops.

Now, if you do something illegal with your wifi connection, like erasing the person's hard disk or hacking into the White House press release website and replacing it with a Youtube clip of the armless knight from "Monty Python" proclaiming that it's only a flesh wound, then yes, you could spend some time in the pokey. But thus far I don't believe anybody's been given a 300 pound teddybear just for logging onto an open wifi connection.

This should be an interesting case to follow if they actually take it to trial, since, as far as I know, it'll be the first of it's kind. I am not a lawyer, of course, and you should consult one if you need real legal advice. :)
 
Here is how it seems to be threated in Canada:


The only problem I see is if someone pays for a limited bandwidth, then using without permission becomes stealing of this bandwidth. Juste like you can steal Satellite TV signals, you can steal bandwidth.


However, juste like everything else, no complain = no crime. Even if the police catch someone entering your house, if you decide not to complain this person simply commited no crime.

However when caught doing so, police has the right to take whatever action needed to verify the nature of use of the bandwidth (ex: commiting online crimes).
 
Grrrrrrrr..........

Our chase on Saturday, 02/24/07, concluded the second chase on which we have been "run off" from a "free" WiFi spot by the owners of the network. It appears that people - hotels in particular - are getting extremely picky about who they let access their networks. If I get run-off again - I will be going and telling the Mgr. that I was using their WiFi before coming in to book a room - but now I will not be doing so due to their hostility towards travelers.

That article that was posted originally about the gamer "wardriving" was utterly ridiculous. If YOU own a wireless internet access network then it is YOUR responsibility to see that people only use it under YOUR terms. It is NOT the responsibility of the public at large to "defend" your network and not use it in "good faith". Grrrrrrrrr. :mad:

KL
 
Here is how it seems to be threated in Canada:

The only problem I see is if someone pays for a limited bandwidth, then using without permission becomes stealing of this bandwidth. Juste like you can steal Satellite TV signals, you can steal bandwidth.

To steal a satellite TV signal, you must break the encryption protecting it. That is illegal. Open wifi is usually transmitted free and clear in an unencrypted form. Intercepting those signals is perfectly legal, just like turning on your radio is perfectly legal. In fact, there are quite a few satellite feeds floating around out there that are unencrypted and perfectly legal to intercept. :) Of course, there is an extra step here -- transmitting back. However, that frequency is owned by the public and is unregulated (beyond some transmit power restrictions), and so there is no crime in transmitting on that frequency. If one has their router set up to execute the commands of every transmission it receives regarless of origin and that is not the owner's intent, then that's the router owner's problem, not the public's problem.

If one has limited bandwidth, then it's incumbant upon them to set up their wireless router in a way that limits access to that bandwidth. This is very easy to do. Alternately, they could use a physical cable to connect to the internet, which does not utilize radio frequencies that belong to the public.
 
To steal a satellite TV signal, you must break the encryption protecting it. That is illegal. Open wifi is usually transmitted free and clear in an unencrypted form. Intercepting those signals is perfectly legal, just like turning on your radio is perfectly legal. In fact, there are quite a few satellite feeds floating around out there that are unencrypted and perfectly legal to intercept. :) Of course, there is an extra step here -- transmitting back. However, that frequency is owned by the public and is unregulated (beyond some transmit power restrictions), and so there is no crime in transmitting on that frequency. If one has their router set up to execute the commands of every transmission it receives regarless of origin and that is not the owner's intent, then that's the router owner's problem, not the public's problem.

If one has limited bandwidth, then it's incumbant upon them to set up their wireless router in a way that limits access to that bandwidth. This is very easy to do. Alternately, they could use a physical cable to connect to the internet, which does not utilize radio frequencies that belong to the public.


What you are saying makes sence but law just dont work that way: Legally bandwidth is a PRODUCT (classified as service) that people OWN by paying for it. For a judge, leaving it unprotected is searching for problems just like letting your car's doors unlocked forgeting keys in but it doesn't mean you want to share it.

So basically, by doing so you are taking someone else's property and it becomes stealing. I am not saying it should be threated as a crime but by definition it sure is.

So everyone that does wardriving might be commiting a crime if the owner of the wifi network doesn't want to share it. By not asking we are taking the risk to be commiting a crime.

But again, no complain = no crime. Fortunately most (read most) people have common sence and will make the difference between the guy that is 'stealing' bandwidth and the one just getting some data needed for a hobby.
 
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What you are saying makes sence but law just dont work that way: Legally bandwidth is a PRODUCT (classified as service) that people OWN by paying for it.

Every ISP agreement that I have ever read (that you must agree to when you sign up with them) has wording to the effect that you DO NOT own any part of the service and are just paying to "use" the service.

Sort of like when you pay one of those machines when you put air in the tires. The person in front of you paid to turn it on, and it's still running when they drive off....are you going to wait until it stops to put your money in and use it, or use it while it's still running.

On another note, many ISPs are putting in their contracts that you are not allowed to have an unsecured network on their service. So who is in the wrong then? The person the drove by and used it, or the person that left it open?

This debate is carried out many times around the Internet, and like politics, either side of the debate will never change the mind of someone on the other side.
 
I do not think that a wardriving case would stand in a court of law if the service that was being "exploited" was A) free, B) open to the public and C) the public regularly use it. How could anyone possibly argue that in court?? I see no way.

If people don't want others using their networks it is THEMSELVES who need to take the appropriate measures of protection. It is NOT the public's responsibility to protect THEIR network.

IMO it's just another imaginative way for corporate entities to sue people for no reason. Welcome to the western world.

KL
 
If people don't want others using their networks it is THEMSELVES who need to take the appropriate measures of protection. It is NOT the public's responsibility to protect THEIR network.

I would agree with this if it weren't for the difficulty in securing a router. I tried several times to add encryption to my Linksys router, because people around my neighborhood were using my connection. I could see the activity light on the router when I wasn't online and noticed the slowdown when I was. I even had a kid from a house down the street knock on my door and ask if my internet was down because he couldn't get online with my connection!

You have to turn on the encryption, set the key, then set each computer up to use that key. No matter what I did, I could *not* get it to work. I ended up just unplugging the router and not using it. Was I missing something simple? Maybe, but while I'm not a major computer geek, I know my way around them pretty well. If I couldn't do it, the average Joe probably is not going to be able to.

I can imagine most everyone who tries to secure their network ends up giving up, and either leaving it open or just not using wireless altogether. And so, I wouldn't place the blame on the network owner or assume that they want others to use their network if their router is open.
 
I even had a kid from a house down the street knock on my door and ask if my internet was down because he couldn't get online with my connection!

That's priceless.

In theory, it is easy to setup encryption. Just make sure you pick the right encoding style and keep the code simple. I used codes like 0000000002. I never deal with the passphrase. Once the code is properly set you wont need to enter it again.

I'll admit that I have had some clients with router problems. I turned off their encryption and everything worked fine. I warned them of the risks, and given the location of their houses it was worth it. No real neighbors, far from the street, etc.

I live in a condo so encryption is mandatory. The biggest problem here is too many wireless routers. I can regularly see 10 or more routers, half of which are open and all are transmitting on the same frequency.
 
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