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Subject: [IP] The case of the stolen Wi-Fi: What you need to know

  • From: David Farber <>
  • To: Ip Ip <>
  • Date: Sat, 13 Aug 2005 08:13:30 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: Bob Frankston <>
Date: August 12, 2005 8:54:16 PM EDT
To: Dave Farber <>
Cc: 'Dewayne Hendricks' <>, "William R. Cheswick" <>, 'Brad Templeton' <>,, 'Simson Garfinkel' <>
Subject: The case of the stolen Wi-Fi: What you need to know

The continuing criminalization of the Internet.

It may seem that I’m overreacting because, as the article points out, the odds are I won’t be caught and prosecuted but I’m not comforted by idea of another potential crime I can be accused of “they” need to find one.

Before I’m too dismissive of the idea of “authorized access” and the fears that drive Florida to criminalize connecting via the ‘wrong” access points, open access points do create serious exposures. I fear Microsoft and others are following the road to Maginot rather than addressing the real security issues of the Internet. Their “solution” is to destroy the community and return to the “good old days” of noninterconnectable realms.

The article is unbalanced because all the attention is on the victims – that is users both authorized and unauthorized rather than the failure of systems companies to provide users with tools that allow them to participate in the shared Internet.

It’s one thing to have to use firewalls because of apparent failure of Microsoft (and others) to give us effective control but it’s another thing to start to institutionalize them in law. Next the carriers will be able to enforce their rules against running servers (including SIP servers for VoIP) or sharing the Internet connection between our computers and our printers?

The article complains about stealing bandwidth as if it were scarce and expensive like electricity. This is a very bad analogy – akin to calling reading a newspaper over someone’s shoulder in the subway piracy or theft. There’s the usual garbage about this being a Wi-Fi problem when any shared medium is leaky. And now there’s the threat the RIAA will swoop down on you if your IP address shows up on their lists.

Alas, as I noted, the defaulting of Windows (and other platforms) to sharing everything creates exposures that do make it necessary to close down our LANs. Early Unix had this problem – defaulting to open access vs Multics’ requiring the user give permission. (Project MAC: Man-Machine Symbiosis). XP’s “simple [minded] networking” model adds to this since it has a share/noshare model that only works if we wrap our systems in protective bubbles and presumes an unambiguous hierarchical model of authority. It compounds this by subverting the powerful (though overly complex) access control system built in.

The longer we keep our computers within protective bubbles the more damage from any leaks or errors or confusion. And all the while we are paying a price by leaving our machines as little more than typewriters and Web surfing TVs. It’s just like reducing our personal computing devices to mere telephones.

In the meantime carrying my HP-6315 may be a criminal offense in Florida! Out of concern for public safety perhaps there should be big “No Wi-Fi” signs at the entrance to the state? Or maybe “If you have Wi-Fi enter this state at your own risk”

Note that Bankston is not a typo, and is not me!

Also, I realized “give us” goes against the grain – we shouldn’t be dependent upon these companies but the dependency is still real. 0,10801,103774,00.html?source=NLT_PM&nid=103774

The case of the stolen Wi-Fi: What you need to know
The case of the stolen Wi-Fi: What you need to know

News Story by Stephen Lawson

AUGUST 08, 2005 (IDG NEWS SERVICE) - Benjamin Smith III and Gregory Straszkiewicz both were arrested for allegedly stealing something no one could see, hear or feel. That thing was valuable enough for victims to press charges in both cases. But the arrests were over something many consumers throw out their windows every day: a Wi-Fi signal.

The idea of a police car roaring down the street to catch a roving Doom junkie using someone else's wireless LAN may seem silly, but there are real dangers if your network plays host to strangers. The hazards you might face include eavesdropping, theft of data, painful legal hassles or even a conviction for computer-related crimes. And if you casually tap into your neighbor's Wi-Fi sometimes, these arrests -- Smith was arrested in Florida and Straszkiewicz in Isleworth, U.K. -- signal that it's at least possible you might run afoul of a law and an irritated fellow citizen.

On April 21, Richard Dinon of St. Petersburg, Fla., called police after he saw Smith in a car on the street outside his house using a notebook computer. Smith, 40, was arrested and charged with a felony under a Florida law that prohibits unauthorized access to a computer or network, according to police. A pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 8. In July, a court in Isleworth convicted Straszkiewicz of using a laptop to access the Internet over unprotected residential WLANs on several occasions. He was fined $874 and got a 12-month conditional discharge.


Bob Frankston

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