Man Charged With Stealing Wi-Fi Signal

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Police have arrested a man for using someone else's wireless Internet network in one of the first criminal cases involving this fairly common practice.

Benjamin Smith III, 41, faces a pretrial hearing this month following his April arrest on charges of unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony.

Police say Smith admitted using the Wi-Fi signal from the home of Richard Dinon, who had noticed Smith sitting in an SUV outside Dinon's house using a laptop computer.

The practice is so new that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement doesn't even keep statistics, according to the St. Petersburg Times, which reported Smith's arrest this week.

Innocuous use of other people's unsecured Wi-Fi networks is common, though experts say that plenty of illegal use also goes undetected: such as people sneaking on others' networks to traffic in child pornography, steal credit card information and send death threats.

Security experts say people can prevent such access by turning on encryption or requiring passwords, but few bother or are unsure how to do so.

Wi-Fi, short for Wireless Fidelity, has enjoyed prolific growth since

2000. Millions of households have set up wireless home networks that give people like Dinon the ability to use the Web from their backyards but also reach the house next door or down the street.

It's not clear why Smith was using Dinon's network. Prosecutors declined to comment, and a working phone number could not be located for Smith.

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Instant Lawyer, just add Google...

Florida law aparently has a 10 level scoreing system:

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This is a bit clearer:

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Capital Felony is punishable by death or life imprisonment without eligibility for parole.

Life Felony is punishable by a term of life imprisonment and by a fine not to exceed $15,000.00.

First Degree Felony is punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed 30 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00.

Second Degree Felony is punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed 15 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.00.

Third Degree Felony is punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed 5 years and a fine not to exceed $5,000.00.

It would be interesting to know if "theft of service" is really a felony in Florida.

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Jeff Liebermann

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Jeff, take a look here (may wrap):

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2003->Ch0815->Section%2006#0815.06 Full FL computer crimes chapter:

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HTH Louie Gainesville, FL, USA

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3rd degree felony that's great prosecute the guy

what the hell is a third degree felony.

Somehow the sounds of felony seems a little strong unless they know he was using that stolen connection for kiddy p*rn or some other non legal crap. Felony .... sounds like a large associated taxpayer expense to me if he was just being a stupid petty thief addicted to MSN chatt.

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The 2004 Florida Statutes

Title XLVI CRIMES Chapter 815 COMPUTER-RELATED CRIMES View Entire Chapter

815.06 Offenses against computer users.--

(1) Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization:

(a) Accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network;

(b) Disrupts or denies or causes the denial of computer system services to an authorized user of such computer system services, which, in whole or part, is owned by, under contract to, or operated for, on behalf of, or in conjunction with another;

(c) Destroys, takes, injures, or damages equipment or supplies used or intended to be used in a computer, computer system, or computer network;

(d) Destroys, injures, or damages any computer, computer system, or computer network; or

(e) Introduces any computer contaminant into any computer, computer system, or computer network,

commits an offense against computer users.

(2)(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c), whoever violates subsection (1) commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(b) Whoever violates subsection (1) and:

  1. Damages a computer, computer equipment, computer supplies, a computer system, or a computer network, and the monetary damage or loss incurred as a result of the violation is ,000 or greater;
  2. Commits the offense for the purpose of devising or executing any scheme or artifice to defraud or obtain property; or
  3. Interrupts or impairs a governmental operation or public communication, transportation, or supply of water, gas, or other public service,

commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(c) Whoever violates subsection (1) and the violation endangers human life commits a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(3) Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization modifies equipment or supplies used or intended to be used in a computer, computer system, or computer network commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(4)(a) In addition to any other civil remedy available, the owner or lessee of the computer, computer system, computer network, computer program, computer equipment, computer supplies, or computer data may bring a civil action against any person convicted under this section for compensatory damages.

(b) In any action brought under this subsection, the court may award reasonable attorney's fees to the prevailing party.

(5) Any computer, computer system, computer network, computer software, or computer data owned by a defendant which is used during the commission of any violation of this section or any computer owned by the defendant which is used as a repository for the storage of software or data obtained in violation of this section is subject to forfeiture as provided under ss. 932.701-932.704.

(6) This section does not apply to any person who accesses his or her employer's computer system, computer network, computer program, or computer data when acting within the scope of his or her lawful employment.

(7) For purposes of bringing a civil or criminal action under this section, a person who causes, by any means, the access to a computer, computer system, or computer network in one jurisdiction from another jurisdiction is deemed to have personally accessed the computer, computer system, or computer network in both jurisdictions.

History.--s. 1, ch. 78-92; s. 11, ch. 2001-54

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Ah, much better than what I excavated. Thanks.

The very first item is:

815.06 Offenses against computer users.-- (1) Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization: (a) Accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network;

which covers the illegal access. 2(a) makes it a 3rd degree felony.

Thanks much. Now, lets see if the D.A. decides to prosecute. I'll bet on the perpetrator pleading guilty to some lesser charge, and "volunteering" for rehabilitation.

That explains what Florida means by "access".

815.03 Definitions.--As used in this chapter, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

(1) "Access" means to approach, instruct, communicate with, store data in, retrieve data from, or otherwise make use of any resources of a computer, computer system, or computer network.

Egads. One can't even approach a computer in Florida without breaking the law.

Reply to
Jeff Liebermann

Remember this is from the people, who couldn't read their own states election Ballots!!! ;-()

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Grrrrr! lol That happened in South Florida. We folks above Tampa-Orlando have better sense than to use those damn punch-out ballots. 8-)

Louie Gainesville, FL, USA

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I agree. Maybe a period of "probation", followed by a period of "community service" (how's that for a free labor euphemism?), then maybe "counseling" (getting your head shrunk). And then, of course, let's don't forget that the "offender" has to pay big bucks for all the above.

lol. You ought to see some of our other "laws". I think I remember seeing an article about approx 100 high school students in PA might be charged with

3rd degree felony for procuring the schools password and reconfiguring their 'puters for more Internet access and p*rn sites. What a world!

Louie Gainesville, FL, USA

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Another link of "Signal Theft ". Its an older news item :

Toronto police have charged a man with theft of telecommunications in a bizarre case that involves downloading child pornography from a laptop in a moving car and using other people's computer networks to obtain the images.

Det. Sgt. Paul Gillespie of the Sex Crimes Child Exploitation Section described at a news conference "a relatively interesting set of events," that seem to mark a new era in criminal behaviour and police investigative techniques.

The case began two weeks ago Wednesday, at 5 a.m., when Sgt. Don Woods of 11 Division noticed a vehicle driving the wrong way down a one-way street in a residential neighbourhood.

When Woods stopped the car, he noticed the driver, a man, was naked from the waist down. In the car was a laptop computer and on its screen was an image of a 10-year-old girl in a sex act with an adult male.

Gillespie's child exploitation unit was called in to investigate. Police discovered the laptop computer used a Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) card that allows wireless access to the Internet.

Police suspected that the man in the car was downloading pornography from the Internet, by cracking into a computer in a nearby home.

Det. Sgt. Frank Goldschmidt, of the Ontario Provincial Police's Project P, picked up the investigation because the suspect's home was in Delhi, Ont., outside of Toronto.

A warrant was obtained, a search was executed, and a large amount of material was seized and taken to Toronto Police for further investigation.

Walter Nowakoski, 36, has been charged with possession of child pornography (two counts), accessing child pornography, distributing child pornography, theft of telecommunications, and making child pornography.

Nowakoski is in custody and will appear for a bail hearing on Monday morning.

Louie wrote:

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Wonder if Bill will read this collumn and have a solution for this reader's quandary .

"Q&A Don't piggyback on neighbors' Wi-Fi without permission

Q: I recently bought a laptop with Wi-Fi access, although we only have a dial-up account at home. When I first plugged it in, I was surprised to discover it detected five wireless hot spots in my residential Seattle neighborhood, including two that were unsecured! What is the protocol here? Should I knock on my neighbors' doors, try to find out whose they are and see if it's OK to use them? If I use them without obtaining permission, will I slow my neighbors down? If they are unsecured, should I be extra careful about what I do on the Internet? " wrote:

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Correct me if I am wrong Are not those the standard default Microsoft Windows XP settings that are installed on most new laptops ? A high percentage of new computer purchasers are nubes . Remember if only 1 % of Windows users had trouble connecting the wireless on their new laptops that would be a lot of calls and angry customers.

Peter Wilk>

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As I understand it, using a neighbours WiFi without permission is illegal and it's possible you could be charged if found out.

I was inadvertently caught in a similar situation, but worse. =20 My laptop as supplied was configured to automatically connect to any available network, switching between WiFi's and Ethernet's automatically according to what was available. I was working at my daughters house, no WiFi so supposedly off-line, when Norton AV popped up a window announcing it had just updated my virus definitions. Big Surprise! I thought I was offline! So I checked and found I had been connected automatically to someone else's unsecured WiFi. But who's was it, and where were they? =20

To avoid illegal activity the only immediate option I had was to disable the automatic switching - quite an embuggerance. I couldn't just turn off the WiFi - the switch also disabled my bluetooth. After a few days of door knocking, the owner was found and said he couldn't care less if I used it, and couldn't be bothered securing it to prevent unauthorised access either. So that particular instance is now OK, although I only have a verbal agreement, albeit witnessed. But I'm sure countless thousands of laptop owners are also inadvertently breaking the law due to the default WiFi configuration, without even knowing it. Sure, pop-up windows announce any connection, but if you are not looking at the screen at the time, you won't see it. I think this is a problem that should be addressed by MS - the default should be to only connect automatically to designated networks, and to pop up a window with connection options if the designated networks are not available while others are.

As for slowing down the neighbours connection, it depends a bit on usage and broadband speed. If you start downloading half a dozen 50MB videos simultaneously, I think he would notice it quickly, whatever download speed he subscribed to. Just getting your email, it's unlikely, particularly if his download speed is 512kbps or more. It's not likely to affect his WiFi operation - that is typically operating at 10Mbps or more, while the max broadband download speed is down around 1.5 (although some locations can get 8).

And yes, if the link is unsecured, be a bit careful about transmitting credit card numbers and other private info in clear. If the WiFi owner is a bit savvy, he can identify you and your traffic and monitor it, even if he doesn't know exactly where you are. =20

IMHO, anyone who doesn't secure his WiFi network is just lazy and is asking for trouble. It's quite easy to do and although it isn't the most secure system available, it does prevent casual use and discourages malicious use.=20

--=20 Regards, Peter Wilkins

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Peter Wilkins

Windows XP-SP2 will not automatically connect to a new WAP that is unencrypted. It pops up a box with a caution about an open network.

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Unless it happens to be the same SSID as one you have already agreed to connect to.

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I'm not completely sure what the default is. My XP SP2 system came set up to connect to anything automatically, and I assumed that was the default, but it may not be, in which case I apologise to MS. But, as you say, it makes sense for MS to default to connecting automatically for newbies and if so MS could be aiding and abetting illegal activity! Want to sue them???? :-)

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