Worries about using WiFi

Dec 8, 2003
Leicester, England
I know a lot of us do it - but this causes me some concern

A US computer hacker has been handed down the longest ever cyber sentence of nine years for breaking into the unsecured Wi-Fi network of Lowe’s Incorporated, the nationwide retailer.

21-year-old Brian Salcedo was reportedly facing up to 25 years in prison for pleading guilty to conspiracy and other related hacking charges.

But last-minute pleas from the US government, means he will receive only nine years, for his part in the unsuccessful bid to get credit card data after compromising a Wi-Fi network.

Prosecutors in North California said Salcedo was one of three men who installed a program on the central computer system of several of Lowe’s stores, so it would capture details of credit card transactions.

Personnel at Lowe’s exposed the scam, after a server crash at the point of sale alerted the retailer that something was wrong.

It is understood that the hackers were unsuccessful in netting card information or cash, but the government estimated they could have caused up to $2.5m in financial damage.

Judges reflected this estimate in their harsh nine-year jail term, which the FBI said was the first criminal conviction under the country’s Can Spam Act.

Authorities said it replaces the ‘longest sentence’ for computer crime, imposed on hacker Kevin Mitnick, who received a 68-month sentence.

The attackers of Lowe’s were reportedly found sitting in the car outside a regional store, armed with a long-range antenna, wireless card and laptop PC.

Salcedo’s partners in crime, Adam Botbyl and Nicholas Timmins, have also admitted to wardriving – in which a hacker cruises around in their car searching out defenceless Wireless networks.

Associated Press reports that the men are among the first people in the US cyber history to be charged with such offences.
If all you are doing is using the internet access then the chance that you would get in trouble is slim but if you are intentionally hacking into the WIFI's network with the purpose of browsing computer's connected to that network looking for files or to change some files then you would be considered hacking. Now if it was a secured network and you got into it without permission then you are pretty well screwed if you get caught. Either way, it is and is going to be a real touchy area for a long time to come with more and more cities offering free WIFI access hot spots. If you don't want people on your network then secure it.
I distinctly remember a Lowes (I think it was in Norman, but I'm not positive) where if you sat in the parking lot with binoculars you would certainly be able to read all of the info on the cash register terminals. It seems like these stores have some pretty big issues with their own network and physical security. I liken it to the way that Borders sometimes sets racks of books outside the doors near the parking lot. Easy pickings... illegal to steal, sure, but easy pickings nonetheless.

Stuart -- as long as you aren't hacking into systems, WiFi is not a big deal and I would not worry about it.

Agreed - these guys were NOT jailed because they used Wi-Fi. They tried to steal credit card numbers...
Yes I do agree that they were upto no good and therefore should be punished but it is the method of the crime that bothers me – I will try to explain.

By connecting and obtaining an IP address from a WiFi network and then knowing and willingly passing traffic across that network then by definition you are “hackingâ€￾. The argument that the WiFi network was unsecured is another interesting point. One side might suggest that just because the door is open you do not have a right to enter but the other side may say that the owner of the WiFi network did nothing to prevent the signal from being transmitted over to a public area and therefore made it public domain.

It is a interesting area and before long I do rather suspect that someone somewhere will have to answer some difficult questions regarding WiFi “browsingâ€￾

Lets hope it is not me. :?
Every wireless AP comes with at least SOME rudimentary abilities to "lock" it up so the casual passer by doesn't automatically hook up with it with Windows. For some it's a matter of ethics, and has been compared to all sorts of scenarios. The one's that think it's wrong compare it to walking into their house just because they left the door open. The one's that don't think it's wrong compare it to you playing your music loud in your house and them sitting out on the sidewalk listening.

Fact of the matter is, it's a radio signal, and it travels, and unless it's encryped in some form or fashion you have the right to receive that signal. If you don't want someone to use your wireless network, take a moment and lock it up. That's what the controls are there for.

Myself, I am of the freenet belief and if I happen to lock on to an unencrypted network so be it. I am not searching through other computers looking for trouble. I also have my wireless network open with the name CHASENET, and any chasers passing by are more than welcome to use the connection.

All that aside, you will find a good many motels on the plains now that have free wireless, among them I found this year were Days Inn, Holiday Inn, Best Western and a few others the names escape me now, and they were a valuable resource. Incidentally, the old data void of Childress, TX has several motels with wifi availabe free as the Kettle restaurant has it free as well! It IS available, and it IS in most small towns across the plains now.