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Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

snozboz
Rising Star
Posts: 404
Thanks: 13
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Registered: 27-07-2007

Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

Would you want to know if your wireless network and internet connection was open and unsecured?
I was staying with family, and happened to check to see what WiFi networks were being picked up by my MacBook.  I discovered a router that I could connect to that allocated me an IP address and let me use the internet.  It's name hadn't been changed from the default - the model name of the router.  And it's configuration page was also available to me with the default password of "admin".  Through this, I found their DHCP list showed at least 7 other computers had been on their network recently.  I also found their WAN IP address, which is registered to blueyonder (now part of Virgin Media).
What's the etiquette/responsible thing to do?
If I was going to try and tell them and advise them to secure their router, how would I have found out which house the router was in (given there were several routers in the area with decent signal strength)?
I suppose I could contact Virgin Media.  But would they do anything?  Or would they even treat me as admitting I'd stolen bandwidth from their customer?
Martin
37 REPLIES
pierre_pierre
Grafter
Posts: 19,757
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

I have an Archos 705 WiFi enabled and battery, it has a good signal meter, I have also found open routers near me, tried to locate them, but unable to locate to the nearest house, I have been used to "Foxhunting" in the old CB radio days with loop aerials so do know how to track then, I suppose you could try and send then a text file but?
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,850
Registered: 11-08-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

tricky.  one the one hand you want to let them know that they are unsecured, but if you ride on their network to let them know, you would be breaking the law.
pd
Grafter
Posts: 235
Registered: 09-05-2008

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

I was setting up a friend's new laptop and new wireless router a couple of weeks ago and out of 8 available signals, 5 were unsecured.  I did say to him, jokingly, that he needn't have bought a new router.
pd
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,291
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Registered: 10-08-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

Quote from: artificer
you would be breaking the law.

Really, and which law is that?
pierre_pierre
Grafter
Posts: 19,757
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

dont know its exact name but it is interfering with communication - definitely there, last year I think
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,850
Registered: 11-08-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

there's some law forbidding the use of someone else's wifi.  can't quote chapter and verse as don't know, but read about some chap sitting in his car outside a house and using the householder's wifi.  he was fined, or sent to jail.
Community Veteran
Posts: 18,802
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Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

Yes, you are right.  There was a case where someone was arrested for stealing a wifi signal.  They received a caution from the police.  Have a look at the details here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hereford/worcs/6565079.stm
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,291
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Registered: 10-08-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

Quote
The man arrested at the weekend was cautioned for dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment.
Source BBC news
So what are they (the police) doing, making this up as they go along?
If I turn my laptop on and it connects to a wireless connection (which it is set up to do) have I done something wrong?


Community Veteran
Posts: 18,802
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Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

It is an offence under the Communications Act 2003 to dishonestly obtain internet access and a potential abuse of the Computer Misuse Act.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6958429.stm
cp:quote
Community Veteran
Posts: 26,718
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Registered: 10-04-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

If you just fire up your PC and it connects to someone else's network have two crimes have been committed?
1. By you as discussed above.
2. The owner of the network is guilty of incitement by dangling an unsecured network in front of you.
jelv (a.k.a Spoon Whittler)
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Community Veteran
Posts: 18,802
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Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

If you leave a window open and a burglar climbs into your home would you suggest that that you are guilty of incitement? Wink
Community Veteran
Posts: 26,718
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Registered: 10-04-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

I burglar has to make a positive decision to climb in to an open window.
You may have to make a positive choice NOT to connect to an unsecured network.
jelv (a.k.a Spoon Whittler)
   Why I have left Plusnet (warning: long post!)   
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Community Veteran
Posts: 18,802
Thanks: 262
Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

Yielding to temptation is no defence in law, merely mitigating circumstances.  As stated in the earlier posts there is law on this issue.  To date it hasn't been tested in court but will be eventually to attempt to produce a precedent.
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,735
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Registered: 02-02-2008

Re: Letting someone know their WiFi is open and unsecured

If you see a car with the key in the ignition do you get in and take it to use it to do your shopping?
If it's someone you know or can see (e.g. just got out of it) you tell them. If not, trying to identify the owner involves taking steps (e.g. rummaging in the glove box or opening the boot) that could be interpreted as illegal so maybe not a good idea.
Not an exact parallel I know (and the risks are different), but I try to take a similar approach re open WiFi. If you encounter an open network and it's pretty obvious whose it is likely to be and easy to warn them then do so. Otherwise the steps you take to really find out whose it is are open to challenge.
There's now only 1 open network near me (called Netgear), but it's relatively weak (not always detectable) so I really don't have a clue where it is.