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Wireless Hijacker Dealt First UK Punishment 663

paella_dodger writes "The BBC is reporting on a recent UK court case whereby a man was fined £500, sentenced to 12 months' conditional discharge and had his laptop confiscated for browsing the 'net on his neighbour's wireless Internet conenction. Perhaps I should secure my neighbour's wireless connection for him before Windows automagically connects to it and gets me arrested!"
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Wireless Hijacker Dealt First UK Punishment

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  • In Perspective... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by md81544 ( 619625 ) * on Monday August 01, 2005 @05:52AM (#13212409) Homepage
    As has been mentioned on /. on several times before when this particular case came up, this guy didn't accidentally or "automagically" attach to his neighbour's wifi network: he sat outside their house, in his car, and acted very suspiciously when they walked past (e.g. snapping his laptop shut). He'd been doing this over a three month period. To my mind his punishment was more a result of his behaviour than mere connection to some idiot's wide open wireless network.
    • Re:In Perspective... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Breakfast Pants ( 323698 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @05:54AM (#13212416) Journal
      Wrong guy, different case, and hell, different country even.
      • by bioteq ( 809524 ) <`mike' `at' `'> on Monday August 01, 2005 @06:02AM (#13212452)
        Perhaps, but the same logic still applies; this guy was not just stealing it, he was making himself a target to be caught.

        He is obviously not very smart, either, considering he was seen for the past three months in the same locations. That usualy means he was using the same network for the same deeds each time.

        Honestly, I do not blame the UK government for going down on this guy; he deserves it. Especially since he was stupid enough to get caught the way he did. Sure, war driving is one thing, but blatently sitting infront of someone's home, leeching their network is a whole different case.

        Sadly, this is just like what happened to the term "hacker" back in the day - it was idiots, like this guy, that ruined it for the real "hackers" out there; the script kiddies. Now, guys like this, and the other guy that got caught doing it, will give the term "war driving" a bad name. Hell, you mention "war driving" somewhere and people are going to start believing you're a "hacker" who uses "linux" to steal credit cards from them.

        All in all, people should learn to secure their wireless networks. If they are unable to, or know nothing about the processes, they should be wired like the other drones. Or they should simply hire someone to secure it for them -- It's honestly not that difficult these days, especially with a linksys router. You simply type in a few things and click a coulpe check boxes and you're done. But this does prove that the common person, joe sixpack if you will, does not care enough about computer security to do anything until someone takes advantage of them. Then they cry foul.
        • by op00to ( 219949 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @07:30AM (#13212731)
          Honestly, I do not blame the UK government for going down on this guy...
          Hmm, UK justice is very different from US justice...
        • The problem is, this ruling sets a precedent.

          The legal systems in the UK and US are based on precedents. Once a Judge has made a ruling with holdings, those holdings are used (held) in future cases.

          One problem with this one, is that there is no longer any way of "wirelessly" advertizing permission to use an access point. (Not in a curerntly supported standard way, anyway).

          But the bigger problem is that is sets a precedent of "default is closed". ie that access to networks must be specifically permitted

  • excellent (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    so, i'm gonna have to stop doing my bittorrent across my neighbours wireless broadband and go back to criminalising myself...

  • honeypot... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by torrents ( 827493 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @05:55AM (#13212422) Homepage
    we should all open up public aps, log the connections and send law enforcement large lists of mac addresses of 1337 h4x0rs...
    that might cause them to reconsider how they enforce the law.
    • we should all open up public aps, log the connections and send law enforcement large lists of mac addresses of 1337 h4x0rs...

      Because as we all know, it's impossible to change MAC addresses in wireless cards, right? And also, because each and every citizen who purchases a wireless card is required to register his name and address in association with said wireless card...
  • Justice (Score:5, Informative)

    by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @05:58AM (#13212433) Homepage Journal
    ``before Windows automagically connects to it and gets me arrested''

    Fortunately, most courts still discriminate between intentionally and accidentally doing something. If you're connecting to someone else's wireless network from your car (which, I assume, means that you don't have any wireless network facilities of your own around), it's pretty hard to maintain that you did it by accident.

    On the other hand, if my mom is found to use the neighbor's network to access the Internet, it will be pretty hard to maintain that she was doing so on purpose. All she knows is that computers can be used as glorified typewriters. GUIs are not for her, much less wireless network configurations.
    • Fortunately, most courts still discriminate between intentionally and accidentally doing something.

      Such faith grasshopper. You must be young!
    • GUIs are not for her

      Wow, she does everything at the command line? What's she using as her "typewriter" program, emacs? Cool mom. I have this image of a couple of soccer moms in a "vi vs emacs" throwdown!
    • by NigelJohnstone ( 242811 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @06:36AM (#13212571)
      "Fortunately, most courts still discriminate between intentionally and accidentally doing something. "

      Except for one thing, you can't know if he neighbours INTENT was to share his open wireless connection for sharing. Thats the whole point of Open WiFi afterall, sharing. By doing this they're making Open WiFi illegal, because not only does your computer have to get permission to connect to the network (via the login) but now extra permission is needed too.

      Let me put it another way. Suppose you have free open municiple wifi and Fred Bloggs open wifi, you computer has no way of telling which is the free Municiple open wifi and which is not so it connects to Fred Blogs's net, attempts to login and is given permission -> crime comitted. You had the intent to connect to an open network, but not the method to determine which network is permitted.

      Or rather you did have the way, the login, but the court ignored that.
    • Under English and Welsh law it is assumed that every subject of her gracious Majesty, Defender of the Faith, by the Grace of God Queen Elizabeth the Second (and not in any way the descendant of some dodgy German princes) has a total and accurate knowledge of the law and therefore ignorance is no excuse. The fact that Judges Appellate frequently decide that mere judges get the law wrong, and that the very senior judges appointed to the House of Unelectable Politicians Who Need Some Cash then decide that the
      • I'm replying to myself before the language Nazis point out that should be "de minimis non curat lex". Completely off-topic I will now print the little verse that explains this:

        There was a young fellow named Rex
        With diminutive organ of sex
        When charged with exposure he replied with composure
        "De minimis non curat lex."

  • Typical... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 01, 2005 @05:58AM (#13212435)
    before Windows automagically connects to it and gets me arrested!

    Sigh. You know you're on Slashdot when anything bad, no matter how remote, gets blamed on Windows and/or Microsoft.
    • Timothy, the best and brightest among us, admits to using XP on his laptop.

      We should hope for that upfront honesty out of /.'s advertisers... like Roland Piquepaille.
  • Accident? (Score:5, Informative)

    by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @06:02AM (#13212451)
    Not really. Despite the BBC hedging it's bets, and putting the conspiracy angle on it a touch, The Register [] has a clearer account of what happened.
    Basically the bloke was engaged in Wardriving, and deliberately hooked into the wireless network.
    It'll certainly be murky waters when windows automatically selects the average joe's router instead of their own, but with many routers at least asking people to put better security on wireless points, this should start becoming less frequent.
    From all accounts, he was caught tapping away on his laptop, moved away when police watched, then came right back to the same point again. At which point he was investigated as he looked a little 'suspicious'.
    Wardrivers remember! Just because you're invisible in the network, it doesn't make you invisible to the local copper walking on the street, or the local neighbourhood watch!
    • WTF... the BBC is being sensationalist, and The Register is being factual?!? I'm going back to bed.
  • From TFA:

    Gaining unauthorised access to a computer is an offence covered by the Computer Misuse Act. In Straszkiewcz's case, he was prosecuted under the Communications Act and found guilty of dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service.

    "I guess, and it is a guess, that they couldn't prove he accessed the actual computer and that is why they used another legal avenue," said Mr Janes.

    Perhaps because it's unlikely that he did access the computer? Why would he need to, if he's just leeching t

    • Gaining unauthorised access to a computer is an offence covered by the Computer Misuse Act.

      It is. But what about this is unauthorised? He didn't break any encryption or crack any passwords, did he?

      If the issue is that he wasn't explicitly granted access, then surely visiting websites makes you just as guilty - you initiate the connection, not the server, and no special privileges are granted beforehand.

      Yeah, maybe there's implied permission by running an unsecured web server on a standard port.

  • Idiot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 16K Ram Pack ( 690082 ) <[tim.almond] [at] []> on Monday August 01, 2005 @06:12AM (#13212492) Homepage
    "Some people might argue that taking a joy-ride in someone else's car is not an offence either"

    Wrong. It's more like going up a private road which isn't marked as a private road, and which you have contacted Google to tell them to put it on their maps. Don't want people to go driving up your private road? Put some signs up or a gate.

    It's very simple - put WEP or WPA on. To be honest, if someone goes through your WEP, then that counts as a deliberate break-in in my book. If you don't have it no, don't complain when people go using it.

  • Is that 12 months probation? E.g. if he screws up, can they throw him in the slammer? That'll teach him!

    I can't imagine how he feels; if he screws up again, he's going to get traded aroud on the block for cigarettes. That's just not funny.

  • by Dynamoo ( 527749 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @06:21AM (#13212519) Homepage
    How many people secure their wireless networks anyway? Well, from my own personal experience.. not a lot.

    While I'm at home, I can see just one wireless network.. mine. But step outside and I can see eight other ones, only one of which is secured. About half are set to the default network name (so I guess default IP addresses and passwords), all of them except mine use the same channel. And some of them stupidly have the owner's names for the network (stupid.. because a burglar could use that to find out who had kit worth nicking).

    So are these people being stupid or what? Errr well.. no, they're just being normal people who expect the kit to work out of the box. But really, who many non-geeks understand WEP, SSIDs, MAC addresses and all the other jargon?

    The probably is made worse by "leakage". If you are inside then you'll rarely pick up someone else's wireless connection.. but these things leak out all over the place when you go outside. The perception of the typical user then is that if they can't see someone else's network from inside, then nobody else can see theirs. Alas, this isn't the case.

    I think the bottom line is that WiFi is incredibly dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. Most products do work straight out of the box, but crucially they are not secure out of the box. Even Microsoft eventually learned that lesson with its operating systems - early versions of XP didn't even have the firewall enabled and were wide open to attack.

    In this particular case the issue of intent is important. Given the proliferation of insecure networks, it must be trivially easy to accidentally connect to some else's wireless point. How you can prove intent is more difficult though.

  • Note the inflation of it's "hijacking" if some bozo's AP *gives* you an IP address over DHCP...!!
  • Deliberately open (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fishtank ( 22846 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @07:06AM (#13212650)
    Personally, I leave my wireless network deliberately open, and the login message (when seen) says "welcome to...". I do this in a public minded spirit, in the hope that if I need a public network in some other place, some other kind soul will leave one open as well.

    Fixed computers actually on my network are individually firewalled off.

    If I ever find evidence of massive bandwidth leeching, I may change my policy, but even then I would prefer to simply cap non-me connections.

    Morally, I don't feel it is wrong to borrow enough bandwidth off an open wifi node to read a few web pages or collect email.

    Massive bandwith leeching, copyright theft or invading someone else's samba shared files via an open network (that they probably intended to be network private) are off limits, of course.

    These days, I would hope that people are aware that these things are open by default - there have been enough articles in the major newspapers about it, and certainly I would prefer that hardware manufacturers shipped them in a default secure configuration, but I don't think this should prevent people leaving them open if they want to.

    If i leave a plate of biscuits (cookies) just inside the open gate to my garden with a sign saying "take one please", is it a crime for someone to take one?
  • Service theft (Score:2, Insightful)

    In the words of Kosh truth is a thre edged sword;
    Your side
    there side
    and the truth

    Theft of bandwidth on a home internet conenction beacuse of an un-securt WLAN would be viewed thus.
    Every secong xMbit of unused bandwisth is wasted, I was simply using something that the owner was throwing away. Besides it should of been secured, its' like leaving your shopping on the front garden wall.

    It was my property and as it is part of my network you invaded my privacy, it is like walking into my house and decantin
  • by gearmonger ( 672422 ) on Monday August 01, 2005 @08:11AM (#13212890) I had no idea I was a hacker...will have to add that to the resume. Now to go get a lifetime supply of black t-shirts with obscure *nix jokes on them, throw away my shaver, and stock up on Mt. Dew.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling