Is stealing WiFi ethically sound?

Mikey 15 comments
  • Cyber Crime
Is stealing WiFi ethically sound?

Wifi in the office and home is so common now it's common to open up your laptop and find several available connections in your general vicinity. And occasionally you will find someone neglected to secure the network, making them a target for leechers and increasing the chance of an excessive bandwidth bill from their ISP.

Is it OK to leech some else's WiFi connection? Every self respecting geek has done it at one stage or another. A lot of people believe in the "if it's not secured, it's open game" philosophy, but isn't that the same as saying it's OK to take someone's car because they forgot to lock the doors?

So you decided to leech from your neighbour's unsecured WiFi connection anyway, huh? What harm can it do? Lets have a look at a possible outcomes.

You surf, download and upload on your neighbours open WiFi connection:

1) Meanwhile your neighbour can't figure out why he is getting inconsistent speeds and slow downloads. He complains to his ISP but eventually dumps them and goes through the hassle of joining another.

2) The end of the month rolls by and your neighbour receives an excessive bandwidth bill to sum of hundreds of dollars, all because you exceeded his monthly cap when you downloaded season 3 of Battlestar Galactica.

3) Your neighbour is doing some important work and needs his fast connection, but unfortunately has been shaped to dial-up speeds because you made him go over his monthly cap.

4) Your neighbour's router only allows 4 connections, and you have hooked onto the last. Now his daughter can't get on-line with her computer to research her school project.

There are instances where a WiFi connection has been deliberately left open, like in a cafe for example, so getting on-line is a painless process for their patrons. It's the age old "free WiFi to paying customers" honour system, but there is no way to police it.

So next time you see that unsecured WiFi network, and you think you know the source, perhaps alert them to the vulnerability and ask permission. You might even sleep better!

Not a Member!


Thursday 24th May 2007 | 09:06 PM

It's like pirating music. It's easy, it's convenient and we've all done it. But it's still wrong. If someone was using my wifi I'd be pissed (mainly at myself, for letting them).

I'd also be extremely impressed at their l33t haxxorness, considering my wifi device is not plugged in ;)

Not a Member!


Friday 25th May 2007 | 10:01 PM

Our tech guy has been stealing wifi from someone in his townhouse complex for over a year so I have sent him to this article to see what he thinks. I think your car analogy is perfect.

I know a lot of tech guys who say its the persons fault for not securing the wifi. Wrong!

Not a Member!

Dr Memento

Friday 8th June 2007 | 08:19 AM

Raised some good points but I doubt it will deter most people.

Not a Member!

Jerry D.

Tuesday 19th June 2007 | 06:22 AM

I like the analogy of stealing wifi is like stealing a car. For the car you need phisical breaking and entering. Wi-Fi I will keep using it for free and not even a $400 fine will stop me. You don't want to share it with me, then keep me out.

If I ever pay for my own internet access then I will keep you out for sure.

Not a Member!


Tuesday 19th June 2007 | 08:49 AM

The analogy is "is it OK to take someone's car because they forgot to lock the doors?" - no breaking end entering required. And it meant that just because someone is stupid enough to leave the doors unlocked doesn't make it OK to steal the car.

Not a Member!

Jake Farr-Wharton

Tuesday 19th June 2007 | 09:59 AM

I used to live across the road from a consular official from Korea and was always surprised to find his Wi-Fi open. I spoke to one of his guards about it and he moved within the week???

I find myself in hotels quite regularly now though and have always found that when ever said hotel is hosting a conference, it's free wi-fi on the pool deck.

Not a Member!

Disagree for the block

Wednesday 18th July 2007 | 04:49 PM

I am an authorized user when I enter an unsecured connection. That person has chosen to not to secure his router and is at that point leaving access open to all to use.

If I can receive a signal in my own house I have the right to do with it as I please.

Secure your WIFI ROUTER!

Moreover I put the blame on the people who make wifi (belkin, netgear, linksys shame on you!) routers and there inability to inform the public on how to make a decision on whether a person wants add authorization to their router.

Not a Member!


Wednesday 18th July 2007 | 05:28 PM

Sorry, disagree - I dsiagree. By your logic, I am allowed to take your car if it's parked on my lawn and the blame rests with Ford for making it too easy. Hey - it's "in my house" I can do with it as I please.

The bottom line is, most people can't secure their own router coz it's "rocket science" to them. Sounds odd to anyone who understands these things I know but they just don't get it. That shouldn't make them "easy pickings".

Your argument is that anyone who can't defend themselves should be targetted. If they're in what you claim to be an insecure location and they have weak defences - you can pwn them?

I assume by your own logic you wouldn't mind being mugged on a train?

Not a Member!

3 of 13

Sunday 29th July 2007 | 05:14 PM

Even putting legality aside, it is still stealing.

Not a Member!


Tuesday 21st August 2007 | 12:04 PM

I have a home network and behold! it's secured! The process to secure the thing was right there in the installation, so I really don't understand the mentality of people/families who say, "Ho hum, I'll just leave this open to the world." If they don't care enough to use the security keys, I have little sympathy for their woes. It's not brain surgery to secure a network.

Not a Member!


Tuesday 21st August 2007 | 12:34 PM

Ah, but is it secured?

What is your definition of secure? MAC address lock out? That should take about 5 seconds to break. WEP key? That should take another 20 seconds or so. What if this is all your router offers?

For the uninitiated.

Breaking a MAC filter:
Step 1. Use ngrep to sniff all traffic in the air. MAC address are unencrypted and in the header of each packet. Simply watch for any MAC address that's getting talked to. Tada! You have a valid MAC address and you can now change your MAC to suit (google how to do this, it should take less than a minute).

Breaking WEP:
Step 1: Download Airsnort. A passive (undetectable) crack on a 40 or 128bit WEP key usually takes between 1 and 60 seconds. WEP is utterly broken as an encryption and should not be used, ever.

That's it. Still feel so secure?

Not a Member!


Wednesday 3rd October 2007 | 07:24 PM

:S im writing an essay about this shit

Not a Member!


Wednesday 10th October 2007 | 12:42 AM

And it's people like you Jerry D that make the internet so much fun. You reckon that excuse will fly when you get busted for stealing wi-fi?

Not a Member!


Sunday 18th November 2007 | 03:07 AM

As a "good neighbour" and, I hope, considerate person I feel that it is my duty to report and assist my neighbours with information in the case of their unsecured networks. For the reasons Michael represented and others I feel that it is inappropriate to use someone else's internet.

However I find that I must disagree with Michael's analogy "but isn't that the same as saying it's OK to take someone's car because they forgot to lock the doors?" as it seems flawed. Is their car in my living room? my yard? is it a safety risk to my kids? For various reasons I think a better analogy might be "if my neighbour is playing his stereo loud enough for me to hear in my house do I have a right to listen to it? do I have a right to an opinion on whats playing? what time of day it is on?".

From the points presented by other readers and the author the relativity of my simily may not be immediately prevalent so consider the following:

Windows ( yes I know it is not the only OS) has the nasty habit of automatically using the strongest available network irregardless of who owns it. Try to convince it to do otherwise and see for yourself. An unsecured network is an available network. While there are ways to keep this from happening it is most definitely not available to the average person and way more involved than simply using a wizard, as is now common, to configure a router properly.

If you are a responsible modern parent you are probably limiting the types of sites that your children have access to without your direct permission. If you are also using a wireless network in your house the second that some interference causes your AP's signal to degrade lower than your neighbours your family's computer will automatically transfer to that neighbours network with their, most likely in this case, unconfigured parental controls.

Similarly if you have a smart teen in the house who wants to stay up gaming all night and is capable of configuring his own connection they can scam internet off of the neighbour without time restrictions.

For these reasons I have taken it upon myself to help my neighbourhood at least attempt a semblence of wireless security. For as always, security is ultimately only a fantasy.

Not a Member!


Saturday 11th July 2009 | 12:11 PM

I purposely leave my router unsecured so anyone can use it who wants to. I pay for it, I can choose to share it, and sharing is in my nature.

Add a comment

Login to Rusty Lime

Not registered? | Forgot your Password? Cancel Login