Trick Bandwidth Thieves

By Deane Barker on July 29, 2006

Upside-Down-Ternet: This is one of the funniest, most inventive things I’ve ever seen. Can you imagine the tech support calls this will generate?

My neighbours are stealing my wireless internet access. I could encrypt it or alternately I could have fun.

The one at the bottom — the “blur” effect — would probably end up with some idiot buying a new monitor or something.

(Of course this all begs the question of why not just lock down your wireless network to start with. Although not as much fun, it’s probably much more secure.)

Gadgetopia

Comments

  1. This is funny but if you leave your WiFi open it should be assumed ok to use by public. It’s easy to hide, encrypt, or even contain the signals if you don’t want to share.

    Don’t get me wrong this person can do whatever they want with their internet access and wifi signal. But think about the people who are being arrested for using it, not so funny.

  2. You know the grammar geek in me is just calling out right now…

    This does not beg any question, though it does raise one.

    That is all for today.

  3. Silly question – whatever happened to basic ethics, Brian? Where does the assumption come from that if you leave something open you are asking for it to be stolen (goodness, that sounds so harsh and judgemental – shall we callit misappropriation)? That’s in the same league as the logic that blames rape victims for dressing suggestively.

    Point – someone pays for a service. They may not be smart by leaving it open (a point we’re in agreement on), but it is their choice. Point two – the neighbors find it not secured and decide to take advantage of the situation, rather than pay for their own bandwidth. In my understanding, knowingly taking something that does not belong to you constitutes theft – and I don’t see the point in using a euphemism to shade the truth (“We were just taking advantage of an open access point, and shouldn’t internet access be free anyways? Besides, they can’t use it all of the time, so we were just sharing the bandwidth – yeah, that’s it – we were sharing!”).

    Call it anything other than theft if you want… I respectfully disagree.

  4. First I don’t think you can compare finding and then using an open WiFi signal with raping someone.

    Second I don’t think we are looking at it the same way. I would assume if you left your wifi signal open you wanted it that way so people could use it. It is no more stealing than if they were picking up a radio signal from your Apple iPod with a Belking transmitter. Or how about we look at it completely backwards and say that YOUR Wifi signal is invading their home or area and they wanted to teach YOU a lesson. Why should your WiFi signal just be allowed to roam free without any restrictions. If I’m at home minding my own business and your WiFi signal makes it way into my house or onto my property, I can do what I want with it. If you’ve left it open that means I can use it. Or I could capture everything and try to figure out what you do on the internet.

  5. Not so long ago you could be shot for trespassing or scrumping fruit (particularly unfair since boundaries were not marked.)

  6. I would assume if you left your wifi signal open you wanted it that way so people could use it.

    Really? That’s a pretty bold assumption to make. I guess if it were me, I’d assume the opposite, that the neighbors with the wide open wi-fi left it open out of ignorance, not for me to jump on to share. But then again, if it were me I wouldn’t leave it open to assumption; I’d ask if they knew it was open and advise them to close it for the security of the data on their own computer.

    This Upside-Down-Ternet only shows that if you do hook up using an open wi-fi signal you also open yourself to a huge security threat. How do you know the guy that has his wi-fi open isn’t trying to snag some personal data from bandwidth thieves? Seems to me that it’d be a short step from turning images upside down to redirecting the bandwidth thief to a phishing site.

  7. First I don?t think you can compare finding and then using an open WiFi signal with raping someone.

    I’m not comparing the acts at all, I’m looking at the faulty logic that you present as a justification for something that one should know in their heart is not the right, or moral, or ethical thing to do. Specifically:

    … but if you leave your WiFi open it should be assumed ok to use by public.

    I class that flawed logic in the same category as I class the logic that a rapist will use for their defense – “Well, I wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t dressed that way – it made me think she wanted it.” Whether or not you agree with me or my choice of models to examine the flaws in your argument, the fact remains that you are defending an indefensible act – you are, in fact, saying that taking something that has not been earned nor paid for nor been intentionally given permission to use by the legitimate owner is “assumed ok to use.”

    It still comes back to the individual knowing that they are doing something without any legitimate ability to do so simply because an opportunity presented itself. Remind me never to leave money on my dresser if I have you over – you might assume that it is permissible to take it since I left it lying in plain sight, in my home, on my dresser.

  8. First I don?t think you can compare finding and then using an open WiFi signal with raping someone.

    I’m not comparing the acts at all, I’m looking at the faulty logic that you present as a justification for something that one should know in their heart is not the right, or moral, or ethical thing to do. Specifically:

    … but if you leave your WiFi open it should be assumed ok to use by public.

    I class that flawed logic in the same category as I class the logic that a rapist will use for their defense – “Well, I wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t dressed that way – it made me think she wanted it.” Whether or not you agree with me or my choice of models to examine the flaws in your argument, the fact remains that you are defending an indefensible act – you are, in fact, saying that taking something that has not been earned nor paid for nor been intentionally given permission to use by the legitimate owner is “assumed ok to use.”

    It still comes back to the individual knowing that they are doing something without any legitimate ability to do so simply because an opportunity presented itself. Remind me never to leave money on my dresser if I have you over – you might assume that it is permissible to take it since I left it lying in plain sight, in my home, on my dresser.

    “But the wi-fi signal can easily be encrypted or contained” – so can our impulse to take advantage of our fellow man’s failures and oversights – it does come down to choice.

    The original post by Deane was meant to be classed as humor – and it does show some funny ways of dealing with home network intrusion. It is also obvious that the guy who wrote the piece knew that he’d left his port exposed – as is his right to do – and had he been a malicious sort likely could have ransacked the interloper’s systems or caused other havoc. We agree that one should not leave themselves exposed – I suspect the auther was a bit chagrined to find out that he’d been taken advantage of. Where we disagree is in the conclusions you drew – had it been my system, I’d have happily had the offenders arrested for theft of computer services – and then I’d have locked the port down tight.

  9. Rick, then how is one supposed to know a public wi-fi point is really public or not? If the default assumption is that every public, open wi-fi node was left open accidentally, and if you use it you’re stealing, then how can we let people know that a given public node is really public and free?

    I see the logic from the other point of view: if a node is open, assume it’s free to use. If someone doesn’t want you to use their node, they should lock it down.

  10. then how is one supposed to know a public wi-fi point is really public or not?

    My assumption is not that every public, open wi-fi spot is left open accidentally; rather, it is my assumption that most residential nodes (if not all) are not really open out of intent but out of oversight or ignorance.

    The greater problem here is one of assumptions in the first place, and this continues to bump up against one of my sore points – technology advances faster than our moral understanding expands to incorporate all the possible ramifications (or perhaps, tech advances faster than our ability to remember we are moral beings who need to think things all the way through, not just to the “Wow! Look what I can do now!” point). Both Paul the apostle and Michael Chrichton make the same point – just because one can do something does not make it the right thing to do.

    There are many commercially located hot spots in Sioux Falls, none of which do I commit an act of theft if I take advantage of. That changes if I drive into neighborhoods and residential areas – the default assumption here should be that these folks have left their access points open by accident rather than intent. If I park outside of someone’s house (yours?) and get a really good signal, I could siphon off your connection point until someone notices me, or until I’ve finished probing your system for weaknesses – but the point here is that I know that I should not be accessing the net through someone else’s mistake.

    I see the logic from the other point of view: if a node is open, assume it?s free to use. If someone doesn?t want you to use their node, they should lock it down.

    Again, the problem is one of assuming things – the assumption is not founded in fact. While I understand the logic from the other point of view, I consider it flawed if it does not appear to take all factors into account – assuming a residential hotspot is open to free public use strikes me as arrogance on the part of the person making the assumption. I don’t believe (here’s my assumptions) the majority of homeowners who set up hotspots in their home have a clue that their signal can be picked up at the distances it can be, nor do I believe the majority of them have a clue about network security. A business that opens up a hotspot does so with the desire to draw in more customers but only ignorance and oversight would be the reasons I would ascribe to the fact that you can drive into so many neighborhoods and access the net freely – but again, just because I can do something does not make it right for me to do it.

    My belief is that the default configuration for any wi-fi unit is that it should be locked down, and that you should be required to manually add in the permitted nodes.

  11. Here in the low population densities of the upper midwest it’s probably much easier to discern between intentional and accidental open hotspots than in urban areas where there is a tighter mix of residential and business networks.

    For example, my house is a good three blocks from the nearest business, and probably a good mile or more from the nearest business with an advertised hotspot, so only an idiot would mistake an open wifi signal in my neighborhood as one intended for free public use. However, in downtown Metropolis, or even parts of downtown Sioux Falls, where you’ve got a number of apartments/condos sharing roofs with businesses, many of which have wifi networks, it’d be harder to distinguish between the intentionally open network and one left open inadvertently.

    One thing I’ve often wondered; if you’re driving down the street, needing to get online, and see a hotel or restaurant advertising free wireless internet access, is it ok to pop open the laptop while sitting in the parking lot, or should it be assumed that it’s for customers only?

  12. As long as no harm is done I don’t have a problem with using open hotspots. @Dave If the Wifi would be for customers only, it would not be to much of a thing to hand out the password to a customer. If it is open one can see it as a form of advertising imho.

  13. Wow, I can’t believe this has turned into such an extended ethical conversation.

    Here is a great article on Wiki that covers a lot of this (technically it’s about wardriving): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_driving

    Personally, I have no qualms whatsoever about using any open hotspots I find. I have been known to sit in hotel lobbies when on vacation just to use their wireless connection, even when I’m not staying at that hotel. There’s a certain retail store near my house that has an unsecured wireless connection, and there’s a nice bench just outside it, which makes for a good outdoor connection point when I’m feeling particularly mobile.

    On my end, I leave my router open as well. I also live in a residential area and have never once recorded a mac address that wasn’t mine. However I wouldn’t mind if someone were to use my connection, as long as it wasn’t their primary means of connecting.

    (i.e., someone passing by just to check email is fine, because I’ve done this as well, but someone setting up some kind of server or filesharing thing through my connection wouldn’t be).

    I think if I were to get on someone’s router and find all my images flipped upsidedown or blurry, that I’d probably find this quite amusing.

  14. I leave my wifi unencrypted- not as an adherent of the “and the internet shall be free” movement- but because I figure, why not? Just like I don’t really care whether my neighbors and people in my neighborhood use the beams from my security lights to see stuff with. Is it ethical for me to share it with them? That might be open to debate. But I fear for the unfortunate women (girls?) in Rick’s neighborhood if rape is analogous to wifi theft/ siphoning/genocide/massacre/holocaust as far as he is concerned.

    There was never any dispute about the ethical, moral, legal vileness of rape. Hasn’t been. Should never be.

    But the wifi question- that’s still open to debate,

Comments are closed. If you have something you really want to say, email editors@gadgetopia.com and we‘ll get it added for you.