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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi all.

I sent a message to some coworkers today. It provoked an interesting discussion, and I thought I'd share and see what you guys think.

I discovered a really cool wireless utility, and told some coworkers about it:

Hi all. Please fwd to anyone else you think can use this.
One of the major geek-frustrations I have is trying to find an open (“free”) wireless connection.​


Even if they show as open, many times you cannot connect.​


If you connect, many times you can’t go anywhere.​


Often you finally find one you can connect to, then find out it is a “pay” spot.​


I found an easy, and FREE, fix.​


“Easy WiFi Radar” ( http://www.makayama.com/easywifiradar.html ) totally automates the task of finding and connecting to an open WiFi access point.​


You fire up the app, its little “radar” thing shows you the APs in the area. It then tries any/all that are NOT secured. If it succeeds in connecting, it tries to open its homepage. If THAT succeeds, it tells you “You’re Online!” otherwise, it knows it’s a pay-spot so it tries another one.​


I read the user-agreement thoroughly, and there’s no ad/spy-ware component. I’ve been using it for a couple of days, and my ZoneAlarm has never complained.​


All you have to do is open the app and click the “go” button – it does everything else automagically.​


This thing ROCKS!​
A coworker responded:

One thing I would like to add to point out and add to this. Recently there have been several court cases that are going on in regards to “Open” Wifi hotspots. What they are coming to the conclusion of is that even if a Wireless router is “Open” (not secured) and visible, this does not equal a welcome sign to connect to it. The example many are giving is along the lines of even if you leave your front door unlocked and/or open, that does not mean you neighbor can come in and take what they want or use your things as they please.
Long story short, be aware of what you are connecting to and make sure you are truly allowed. I would hate to see someone I know get sued over a seemingly innocent thing as just needing to check their email.​
I then edited and posted an unfinished article I wrote on the subject a while back.

{Coworker} -- I appreciate your bringing this up – it’s an interesting subject for discussion!
It should go without saying (especially for those who know me) that I would never advocate breaking any laws or moral restrictions – I should have been more clear about this is my message.​


{Coworker} is 100% correct that the legal precedent is a long way from settled. I personally believe that there are long-standing conventions which say that running an open wireless point is akin to actively advertising “free stuff” and suing those who accept the advertised offer is ludicrous.​


I am (personally) confident that eventually a similar legal precedent will be established, but I wouldn’t want to be the “test case” nor would I want to see it happen to anyone I care about. It would be a long, expensive, and bumpy road.​


{Coworker} is right – “let’s be careful out there”!!​


That said, I’ve seen and participated in some in-depth discussions on this topic. In the spirit of discussion / intellectual exercise, I offer the following…​


===================​


The cases I have seen have revolved around some other factors -- cracking a WEP key is the most obvious. Doing anything to bypass security measures of any kind is taboo. Poking around other hosts/computers on the host network, running a “port scanner” or other such behavior also clearly constitutes “intent” to do wrong.​


I am aware of one criminal case wherein an individual was sitting in his car, outside a closed library, using their wireless AP. He was arrested and charged with trespassing and “theft of services.” In this case he had been previously given an explicit warning that he was not permitted to access said AP after Library hours.​


The warning was the factor that created the crime – similar to “trespass.” If an area is posted “no trespassing” then it is easy to bring and prove charges. If it is not posted, a person must generally be given “notice of trespass” – informed that they’re to stay away. Once notice is given, further trespass is a crime, and further use of the wireless is theft of services.​


The “unlocked door” example just doesn’t fit. A “sample brief” I read, written by an Attorney, beat it up pretty good.​


I tried to find it, but apparently my Google-fu is weak today. =o ) so I’ll paraphrase as best I can…​


Basically, he said this:​


Qualification: In the US, we pay a set fee for “unlimited” Internet access, thus using freely-available and wide-open wireless connections do not increase costs for the provider. In areas (much of Europe) where access is “metered” things are much different.​


Broadcasting an open and advertised access point is NOT like leaving your front door unlocked and/or open.​


Broadcasting a SSID on an unsecured Wireless Access Point is rather like advertising an “open house”, putting an “open house today!” sign (complete with colorful balloons!) in the front yard, and hanging a “don’t knock – just come on in!” sign on the door.​


If they steal your belongings (data from your PCs/Servers), eat your food or make long-distance calls on your phone without permission (thus resulting in increased costs), they have then violated common convention and committed an actionable offense.​


In the absence of such an offense, suing, arresting or otherwise punishing someone who accepted your offer and entered “your place” would be ridiculous. The same goes for accepting your advertised offer of free wireless service.​


Everyone knows that a door (or, to a lesser degree, a gate, fence, or other barrier to entry) whether locked or unlocked denotes a boundary which one should not cross without explicit permission. Locked or unlocked, entering someone else’s home or business without permission is burglary, whether the door was unlocked or not. If a violent action is required – picking a lock (cracking WEP) or kicking the door in (brute force attack) is “breaking and entering.” Taking their belongings (stealing their data) is theft.​


We all know that we are not permitted to enter someone else’s house and/or take their things without permission – there’s simply no room for interpretation.​


Another parallel in his brief was this:​


A wide-open wireless point is akin to placing something out at the road with the trash cans. There are a number of parallels here.​


Placing it in or with the trash at the edge of the road constitutes a “quit-claim” – the owner is stating implicitly (s)he does not care what happens to it at this point. The numerous eBay auctions for Paris Hilton’s used bubble gum, or a wad of Britney’s hair in a broken hairbrush are classic examples.​


If I am driving along on “trash day” and I see an old bicycle at the road, leaning on a full trash can, common convention states it is free for the taking. Many people encourage “free-cycling” – in fact there are numerous websites devoted to this practice. If take this item, this could not be considered theft.​


It matters not whether it is clearly labeled “free” – common convention states the owner considers it “trash” and wants it taken away, thus intent can not be proven if I do so. That the garbage truck was coming and would have taken it anyway further supports the fact that I had no intent to do wrong. IF, however, the item was on the porch, or elsewhere on the property where common convention does NOT say it is free for the taking, it is an entirely different matter.​


A direct parallel exists to the wireless situation. There are many “free” wireless spots – provided by municipalities, businesses, and even private individuals with a bent toward techno-philanthropy. Here too, there are many websites devoted to listing free wireless points and there are many different “wireless finders” for sale. Common convention states that if I do not wish to share my wireless connection with others, I take basic steps to secure it.​


Obviously there are increasing levels of security, each of which has its parallel in the “bicycle” scenario. I could lock up the bike with a dollar-store lock – like adding WEP. I could put it in the locked garage, closer to WPA. I could hire a guard to allow entry to only those I approve – like MAC filtering.​


The biggest issue is ultimately that there are free wireless points all over, and I as the user have no way to know which are intentionally broadcast and which are not – just as I could have no way to know that the bike’s owner just happened to park it at the road with his trash but didn’t want to get rid of it.​


Further, broadcasting a SSID key, and leaving all security wide open, is at a minimum equivalent to hanging a “FREE” sign on the aforementioned bicycle. It could (given the fact of the broadcasted “advertisement”) be considered to be equivalent to taking out a “free” ad in a paper or calling a radio station to say “come and get it.” In many ways it is more like standing out there, flagging down passing people and offering the bicycle to anyone who will take it – APs actively advertise their service.​


The default Windows configuration causes the following series of events:​


  1. I am given a “balloon” prompt that wireless networks are available.

  1. [*]I click the balloon and am presented a list of available wireless networks.​

    [*]Some of these networks are marked with a “padlock” icon, and labeled “security-enabled wireless network.” If I attempt to connect to one of these, I am prompted to enter credentials, without which I cannot connect unless I commit a “violent action” as mentioned above.​

    [*]Others are marked as “Unsecured wireless network.” If I connect to one of these, I am given all of the other items (IP Address, gateway, DNS settings, etc.) necessary to use this connection to connect to and use the Internet.​

    [*]I open my browser and am connected to my home page. At no point am I given any indication this connection is not intended to be shared – in fact (as previously mentioned) all common conventions – every single one -- state that this service is free for the taking.​

    [*]In many cases, when I open my browser, I will be taken not to my home page, but to some other site.​

    • [*]In hotels, this is frequently a page stating clearly that this service is intended for use of hotel guests, and that connection and use by other parties is prohibited. I must click a button acknowledging this notice. If I proceed at this point, I have been given equivalent “notice of trespass” and am stealing their service.​

      [*]In other places (such as Starbucks) I am presented with a page telling me that this is a “pay for access” service. At this point I have the choice to pay for the service or disconnect. Again, getting around this requires a virtual “act of violence” and is a clear violation of convention and law.​
He also went into the subject of the “public airwaves”, made parallels to “CB Radios” and other stuff – I really wish I could find his document… If I do I will send it.​


He made points about “Satellite TV” – once upon a time it was wide open, and there was a huge business in dishes. The networks didn’t like it, but they were broadcasting an open signal on public airwaves – since they made no effort to encrypt it, it was considered “free for the taking.” When they started locking it down, using a “hacked receiver” to break the encryption was a no-no – the aforementioned “act of violence” again. Today’s satellite TV is a different animal -- still broadcast on public airwaves but deliberately “locked down” so that non-paying users cannot access it. Building a “cracked” receiver is possible, but illegal and subjects one to civil and criminal penalties.​


“Scanners” were another topic… If a radio system is wide-open, listening in is perfectly legal, and scanners to help one do so are readily available for purchase. Certain systems are encrypted, and using hardware to break into them is verboten.​


Sorry for the long story… =o ) I find this subject very interesting and have been following it pretty closely for a while.​


I welcome challenge to my points (and those I have paraphrased) – as I said, this is “intellectual exercise” so if you want to play, please jump in!!​
SO, If you haven't dozed off by now, I wonder what you think?

DD

EDIT: I intended to add this point: Common configuration in Windows results in the wireless software automatically connecting to the "first available" open network. In this case, I do nothing at all to cause the connection -- equivalent to placing barriers on the sidewalk to channel pedestrians into your "open house."

The utility I mentioned waaaay back in the beginning simply ensures I don't accidentally try to connect to someone's locked-down network.
 

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Always Test Your Security When Using Wireless, Sygate Is Good At It

Cases here in Cincy are THEFT OF SERVICES! DA has made it stick. They compare it to retail and personal theft. Just because a store DISPLAYS an item doen't mean it's free for the taking or USE. Just like any retail product, you BUY IT first. Seems correct to me. Just like Warner Cable coming into my home, I have it right there in the wall but I use Sat dish, if I hooked up WC and processed the signal with my own cable box (like a laptop driver does with wireless), that's theft of service. BTW one system I set up in Columbus, the client insisted on a TWENTY EIGHT point alphanumerical key for the hub! Pisses off their clients big time.
 

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Oh! How much per minute cost ya think in NYC??? Bet it's more than Calzone or Matzoh

Sep 20, 2007 9:35 am US/Eastern

NYC Subway Platforms To Go WiFi
Stations To Be Wired For Internet, Cell Phone Service
(CBS/AP) NEW YORK Add another sound to the symphony of screeches and clatter in New York City's subway system: cell phone chatter.

All 277 underground subway stations -- but not the tunnels -- would be wired for cell phones and wireless Internet service in the next six years under a plan the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Wednesday. It still needs approval from the agency's board, but Chairman Peter Kalikow said he supported it and expected other members would join him.

A company called Transit Wireless would pay the $150 million to $200 million cost of wiring the stations, plus about $46 million in fees over 10 years to New York City Transit, a unit of the MTA. Straphangers would be able to use their cell phones only if their carriers signed up for service on the underground network, which Transit Wireless partner Gary Simpson predicted they would.

"There's a need and a demand by riders and customers to use their cell phones down in the stations," Simpson said.

That demand was highlighted when a rainstorm last month caused a subway system meltdown. Some passengers found themselves unable either to get information on the problem or to phone their co-workers and families to explain their whereabouts.

Still, riders are divided on whether cell phone service would be a plus in the underground.

Some, like Marlene Rice, say the prospect of being able to call for help gives them peace of mind.

"Crazy stuff happens on New York City subways," said Rice, 32, a volunteer at a Brooklyn hospital.

But others say they'd prefer the peace -- and relative quiet -- of a place without trilling ring tones and quotidian cell phone talk.

"I don't want to hear everybody's conversation," said Micah Pastore, 31, a production assistant who lives in Brooklyn.

Almost 5 million passengers ride the subways on an average weekday. The 660-mile system includes 468 stations under and above city streets.
 

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is there any place that sells the blockers for cell phones ??
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
...if I hooked up WC and processed the signal with my own cable box (like a laptop driver does with wireless), that's theft of service. ...
Here again, you're missing the point.

Hooking to cable will not allow you to use it. You'd have to commit an act of violence -- cutting the seal -- to open their box out at the road and connect it. Then you could attach something in the house. Using a "hacked" cable box is (again) already illegal AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT.

Wifi on the other hand -- as has been said -- one cannot tell the difference between "intentionally shared" and "stupidly shared."

Using your "cable" analogy, punishing me for using an open wifi signal would be equivalent to your hacking in and hooking up a giant-screen out by the road then punishing me for watching. I'm not the one who hooked it up, and had no way to know you'd done so illegally.

You ADVERTISED your open wireless -- BROADCASTED a signal saying "HEY! Wanna connect to me?"

As to your "retail" analogy -- again -- it's not the "display" it's putting it out on the sidewalk with a big "FREE" sign on it.

Again -- cracking WEP, or otherwise breaking in is immoral. Using something broadcast as "open" is clearly not.

DD
 

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I get your point; you just need to see it as the product and service that it is...

Here again, you're missing the point.

Hooking to cable will not allow you to use it. You'd have to commit an act of violence -- cutting the seal -- to open their box out at the road and connect it.

(nope... WC comes to the wall "encrypted", no box at the road.)

Then you could attach something in the house. Using a "hacked" cable box is (again) already illegal AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT.
(just as using your laptop to actively searchout hubs and steal service, theft of service AND EVERYBODY KNOWS IT!)

Wifi on the other hand -- as has been said -- one cannot tell the difference between "intentionally shared" and "stupidly shared."

(Of course you can! That's the most specious argument! Liken it to "I didn't know it was a crime." Similiar to "Honest, I didn't know there was a law against stealing." If you don't pay for it, it's theft of services.)

Using your analogy, punishing me for using an open wifi signal would be equivalent to your hacking in and hooking up a giant-screen out by the road then punishing me for watching. I'm not the one who hooked it up, and had no way to know you'd done so illegally.

(You must be confused... punishing you FOR USING a WiFi hub that your computer searched for and actively initiated by you from a computer that is registered by you, bought by you and under your explicit control is perfectly fine. I hook CATV and you happen to watch unwittingly, I get fined or jail not you. Your muddying up the analogy.)

You ADVERTISED your open wireless -- BROADCASTED a signal saying "HEY! Wanna connect to me?"

Again -- cracking WEP, or otherwise breaking in is immoral. Using something broadcast as "open" is clearly not.

(There's no "morality" issue here other than someones ability to commit a crime. Your laptop has to actively search for an open WiFi hub THAT is your action, initiated by you. You are the prime mover of the crime. The dll is under your control. The WiFi lays there not forcing you to look for it, no "advertising" involved at all. WiFi is only "open" when you find it, you must actively engage in the search to find it. If your next door neighbor has WiFi and you can jump on it's still a crime because in the normal course of events, it is not you who paid for the service no matter how stupid your neighbor may be about security. And there is an expectation of privacy in the home under the law. You steal the service when you use it, just like milk or bread on the shelf in the store. Open WiFi is a product that generates revenue, you use it without paying for it. That's theft.)

DD
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Discussion Starter #7
You're demonstrating that you don't understand the wireless protocols. My PC broadcasts NOTHING. It is a passive receiver.

Your AP on the other hand is constantly broadcasting "I'm HERE! LOOK AT ME!! WANT TO USE ME?"

Out of the box, default XP configuration:

I get a balloon prompt that says "I found wireless connections. Would you like to connect." I say "yes" and am presented with a list. Some of them have locks - these are obviously closed.

Others are wide-open.

Here is my question:

Given that there are many FREE -- INTENTIONALLY FREE -- wireless connections all over the place, how am I to know which one is owned by a generous person and which is owned by a stupid person?

DD
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
BTW -- (Almost) everyone's house has a cable running to it. Somewhere out on (or up) the road is a box (perhaps on a pole) inside which is a large "splitter" of sorts.

In most cases, the cable from your house to the box is disconnected from the "splitter" when you are not a subscriber. This is why you (again, generally) can't go down to the cable-co office and pick up a box, take it home and have cable. They have to send out a tech to make the connection at the box. IF they have a cutting-edge infrastructure, they may be able to turn on your port through electronic means, but I don't know of a single system that runs an active signal to every house whether or not they are a subscriber.

It's certainly possible that your cable is different, but they'd be the exception, not the rule.

In any case, as you mentioned, the signal is encrypted and using the signal without authorization requires the aforementioned "act of violence" -- breaking their encryption with a "hacked" cable box.

The wireless equivalent would be breaking the WEP key, or otherwise defeating in-place security measures, which I am in no way advocating, and have said clearly is both morally and legally wrong.

Again -- there's no "freely available cable service" -- the comparison is " apples and oranges."

Your mention of "generating revenue" is (again) illogical -- "pay" hotspots require payment before enabling Internet access. Bypassing this is also a virtual "act of violence" and clearly verboten. We're not talking about using "pay" service without paying, we're talking about the impossibility of knowing whether a wide-open access point is open due to generosity or stupidity.

DD
 

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I'm using an open, unsecured wireless network right now. As far as I can tell though, it emanates from something called "columbus.rr.com", which suggests to me that it is a wireless service provided by the city to the people.

Never heard of it before. Seems to me if a wireless provider didn't want you on, he could detect your traffic and lock out your IP address.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm using an open, unsecured wireless network right now. As far as I can tell though, it emanates from something called "columbus.rr.com", which suggests to me that it is a wireless service provided by the city to the people.

Never heard of it before. Seems to me if a wireless provider didn't want you on, he could detect your traffic and lock out your IP address.
He actually provided your IP address.

Thanks for chiming in - you're a good example of an obviously intelligent guy who doesn't understand how this stuff works. If you ended up on a jury, in connie's world, a guy like me ends up in jail...

Wireless points can broadcast an SSID - that's the name you see. ONE CLICK turns off the SSID broadcast, and people cannot connect unless they do a bit of hacking. That's literally all it takes to say "this ain't for you."

If they want to share it with you, they must tell you the SSID name and you're in.

That won't keep determined folks out, I could crack the SSID in seconds -- but I only do that sort of thing when being paid by clients for my security services.

If I am not mistaken, "RR.com" is an ISP in the midwest -- I knew folks in Wisconsin who had a RR.com address/ISP.

Why they're giving away free access is hard to say - it's certainly possible that the city is supplying it (as I said in my first post.)

One more point: Certain people keep mentioning "using my neighbor's signal for free" -- not only would I not do this to my neighbors, I have actually gone to each of them and locked down their stuff for them.

On the other hand, my church put an access point in the steeple and gave wireless to the neighborhood. We're using a "block" service to keep people out of the porn -- we all thought having the church serve free porn might not be a good idea... ;)

We did this deliberately, but anyone connecting couldn't possibly know that until AFTER they've connected, when they're presented with the church's web-page saying we provide it as a service to the community and setting out certain ground rules. They must accept the rules as written to continue using the connection.

This too can be easily worked around, but more than does the job.

DD
 
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