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Check Your Internet Connection

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Check Your Internet Connection

Postby sox 06 » Fri Jun 01, 2007 8:35 am

And make sure you're not stealing it from someone 8-o :-o

Under a little known state law against computer hackers, Sam Peterson II, of Cedar Springs, Mich., faced a felony charge after cops found him on March 27 sitting in front of the Re-Union Street Café in Sparta, Mich., surfing the Web from his brand-new laptop.

Last week, Peterson chose to pay the fine instead as part of a jail-diversion program.

"I think a lot of people should be shocked, because quite honestly, I still don't understand it myself," Peterson told FOXNews.com "I do not understand how this is illegal."

His troubles began in March, a couple of weeks after he had bought his first laptop computer.

Peterson, a 39-year-old toolmaker, volunteer firefighter and secretary of a bagpipe band, wanted to use his 30-minute lunch hour to check e-mails for his bagpipe group.

He got on the Internet by tapping into the local coffee shop's wireless network, but instead of going inside the shop to use the free Wi-Fi offered to paying customers, he chose to remain in his car and piggyback off the network, which he said didn't require a password.

He used the system on his lunch breaks for more than a week, and then the police showed up.

"I was sitting there reading my e-mail and he came up and stuck his head inside my window and asked me who I was spying on," Peterson told FOXNews.com.

Someone from a nearby barbershop had called cops after seeing Peterson's car pull up every day and sit in front of the coffee shop without anybody getting out.

"I just curiously asked him, 'Where are you getting the Internet connection?', you know," Sparta Police Chief Andrew Milanowski said. "And he said, 'From the café.'"

Milanowski ruled out Peterson as a possible stalker of the attractive local hairdresser, but still felt that a law might have been broken.

"We came back and we looked up the laws and we figured if we found one and thought, 'Well, let's run it by the prosecutor's office and see what they want to do,'" Milanowski said.

A few weeks later Peterson said he received a letter from the Kent County prosecutor's office saying that he faced a felony charge of fraudulent access to computer networks and that a request had been made for an arrest warrant.

The law, introduced in 1979 to protect Internet and private-network users from hackers, and amended in 2000 to include wireless systems, makes piggybacking off of Wi-Fi networks, even those without a password, illegal.

"It wasn't anything we were looking for, and it wasn't anything that we frankly particularly wanted to get involved in, but it basically fell in our lap and it was a little hard to just look the other way when somebody handed it to us," said Lynn Hopkins, assistant prosecuting attorney for Kent County.

Under the statute, individuals who log on to a Wi-Fi network with the owner's permission, or who see a pop-up screen that says it's a public network, can assume they're authorized to use the network, Hopkins said.

If they don't, they could be subject to prosecution.

Peterson was given two choices: He could try to fight the felony charge and face a sentence of up to 5 years in jail or a $10,000 fine; or he could enroll in the diversion program, which would require paying a $400 fine, doing 40 hours of community service and staying on probation for six months.

After consulting two lawyers — both of whom were until then unaware of the law — Peterson decided last week to take the diversion program.

If he fails to complete it, the arrest warrant will be issued and felony charges will be filed, Hopkins said.

"A lot of people tell me I should fight this, but they're not the ones looking at the felony charges on their record if it happens to go bad," Peterson said.

The case has surprised locals, including the owner of the barbershop that initially called police, as well as Donna May, owner of the coffee shop.

"He could have just come in the cafe, even if he didn't have any money, I would let him get on it," May said.

May said that the wireless connection is free for customers to her cafe.

The barbershop owner defended his decision to call police.

"I felt bad about it, but we've had problems in the past," said the man, who declined to give his name. "I'd rather be safe than sorry."

For Peterson, who's never had a criminal record, the experience has been an eye-opening one.

"All over the TV, all the commercials and whatnot you see, they're all trying to get you to buy all these laptops and things that are wireless," he said. "They're trying to get you to buy this wireless stuff because you can go anywhere and still be connected.

"Well, they don't happen to tell you that it's illegal," he continued. "And I guess obviously you're just supposed to know that."

It's up to the consumer to figure that out, said Hopkins, the prosecuting attorney.

"When you buy a Wi-Fi equipped device, it's your responsibility to find out what you can and can't legally do with that device, just as it would be if you were buying a radar detector or any other piece of electronics," she said.

But don't look for a flurry of prosecutions anytime soon.

"We're not going to be running stings to go out looking for people who do this," Hopkins said. "But people should be aware that if we come across them, and it is a violation of the statute, then we will enforce the statute."

I found this posted by TheRock on the darkside ;-D
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Postby knapplc » Fri Jun 01, 2007 8:43 am

Let's see - the coffee shop provides free WiFi access to their customers to promote their business. This guy was coming over, not buying stuff from the shop, using their bandwidth, and was doing so for at least one week.

And he’s going to fight this how? :-?

This is clearly theft. He’s using a commodity which he did not own, did not pay for, and which was not put there for his use. It cost the coffee shop money, a cost which they defray by selling coffee to the people who use it service. He did not purchase coffee from them while using this service.

I don’t see how he has a legal leg to stand on.
Last edited by knapplc on Fri Jun 01, 2007 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby joelamosobadiah » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:30 am

knapplc wrote:Let's see - the coffee shop provides free WiFi access to their customers to promote their business. This guy was coming over, not buying stuff from the shop, using their bandwidth, and was doing so for at least one week.

And he’s going to fight this how? :-?

This is clearly theft. He’s using a commodity which he did not own, did not pay for, and which was not put there for his use. It cost the coffee shop money, a cost which they defray by selling coffee to the people who use it service. He did not purchase coffee from them while using this service.

I don’t see how he has a legal leg to stand on.


Well, I don't know about specific state laws, but I have heard in Texas of cases where people have gotten off by saying that it is the owner's responsibility to ensure that there is an attempt to secure the network and that if there isn't, then its available for public access if the signal reaches outside of the home/business of the internet access.

It's all a very gray area until lawmakers step up and make it definitive one way or another. That said, I used to do this. I would frequent Starbucks (which one of them has free internet access here) and get coffee and check my e-mail. Sometimes though, I would just pull up to their parking lot and check my e-mail, etc. I don't do it anymore because of stuff like this (and the fact that I have internet now at my house, school, and about everywhere I am for long periods of time).

So anyway, if its not yours, don't use it and if it is yours, protect it or you are asking for trouble.
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Postby BGbootha » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:33 am

Well now here is the catch-22. I know in some states, that if an owner of a wi-fi network leaves it unsecure and it is used for illegal activity, then the owner of the network is still liable.

It is the owners responsibility to secure an unsecure WIFI.
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Postby Dolfin99 » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:35 am

BGbootha wrote:Well now here is the catch-22. I know in some states, that if an owner of a wi-fi network leaves it unsecure and it is used for illegal activity, then the owner of the network is still liable.

It is the owners responsibility to secure an unsecure WIFI.



Agree. If they are not smart enough to make it password protected, it is fair game.
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Postby treat24 » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:41 am

danielrp wrote:
BGbootha wrote:Well now here is the catch-22. I know in some states, that if an owner of a wi-fi network leaves it unsecure and it is used for illegal activity, then the owner of the network is still liable.

It is the owners responsibility to secure an unsecure WIFI.



Agree. If they are not smart enough to make it password protected, it is fair game.


so if someone leaves their car unlocked and running it's ok to steal?

good to know...

It may be funny to have things happen to stupid people, doesn't make it legal...
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Postby Dolfin99 » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:43 am

treat24 wrote:so if someone leaves their car unlocked and running it's ok to steal?

good to know...

It may be funny to have things happen to stupid people, doesn't make it legal...




Not saying it is OK to steal. What I was saying is that if something does get stolen, it is their fault.
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Postby treat24 » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:53 am

danielrp wrote:
treat24 wrote:so if someone leaves their car unlocked and running it's ok to steal?

good to know...

It may be funny to have things happen to stupid people, doesn't make it legal...




Not saying it is OK to steal. What I was saying is that if something does get stolen, it is their fault.


i agree with you that they should secure it... especially something like wifi... but it clearly says in the story

"The law, introduced in 1979 to protect Internet and private-network users from hackers, and amended in 2000 to include wireless systems, makes piggybacking off of Wi-Fi networks, even those without a password, illegal. "


this dude broke the law plain and simple... yes the owner was an idiot, doesn't mean this guy was in the right by piggybacking...

i don't blame people for getting robbed because they left their door unlocked, i don't blame woman that get raped cuz they were being flirty, i don't blame owners for getting their wifi stolen because they forgot to put a password on it... just not my style... The person committing the crime should be at fault and in our legal system IS... you can say the victim did something stupid, but you can't say it's their fault... can you?

also, ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, i heard a judge say it once when my buddy went to court and it's a pretty common saying i think... just because it's a little known law, doesn't make it ok to break...
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Postby knapplc » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:57 am

danielrp wrote:
treat24 wrote:so if someone leaves their car unlocked and running it's ok to steal?

good to know...

It may be funny to have things happen to stupid people, doesn't make it legal...




Not saying it is OK to steal. What I was saying is that if something does get stolen, it is their fault.


But in this story it's impractical for the coffee shop to have a secure connection because they'd have to give that passcode out to their customers anyway, so to get it all I'd need to do would be to buy one cup of coffee and then I'd have it for future use. It's just a bother to go through that, so why not just leave it unprotected?

In the case of the car, absolutely if I leave my keys in my car unlocked then it's my fault for being a nitwit. But that doesn't absolve the thief from wrongdoing, too.

In the same way, if the WiFi connection is unprotected then to some degree that's a risk the coffee shop is undertaking, but at the same time that does not absolve the person who chooses to knowingly steal the bandwidth.

If it's not yours, if it's something you would normally have to pay for to use/have and you get it by not paying for it, that's stealing.
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Postby moonhead » Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:27 am

it's not unreasonable for the coffee shop to have to secure their network. they can change the password every week. it's not difficult. and it's not like it's some tech nightmare for their customers. oh no, i have to type 6 letters and a number to get on to this network. and they could just have a rotation of several different passcodes, print them up on cards and hand them to people that come in and purchase a cup of coffee. screw them. this is weak. it's not his fault, how was he to know that it wasn't just free internet? the honus is on the cofee shop. not the passerby.
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