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Old 06-06-2007, 09:40 PM   #21
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I used a coffee shop in Alaska and got a password with the purchase. Circumventing their system would be a crime. A signal that's put out as a service to attract customers is, in fact, free and can be accessed without a purchase.

As another 35 year cop and police chief, I applaud the young officer for investigating the suspicious circumstances. If the guy was accessing the system with criminal intent that could be proven, then there's potentially a prosecutable crime. The circumstances as described here are total waste of taxpayer's dollars. I'm embarrassed that one of my peers would waste precious budget resources on a case such as this. Unfortunately we seldom see all of the facts presented in the popular media.

I also suspect that the case would have been dismissed at the evidenciary hearings prior to trial had he chosen a trial; and certainly it's doubtful that a jury would have convicted... although that's always and expensive and risky proposition.


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Old 06-06-2007, 11:58 PM   #22
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There are lots of people who provide open access wi-fi connections that are intended to be used by complete strangers. Is accessing those without permission a crime? According to that poorly written law, I guess so. How about free wi-fin in the park, provided by the city? What if you're in the park and the strongest signal is from the coffee shop, and that's the one your computer grabs?

The point is that the laws are poorly written, and then they are prosecuted and defended by people who have no knowledge of how computers work, or the culture of free wireless that is springing up in many urban areas. In one article the guy said he couldn't find a lawyer who knew enough about the law to feel confident taking it to trial. That's just sad.
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Old 06-07-2007, 12:08 AM   #23
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I wonder if the man was arrested because he fail the "Attitude Test" that was administered to him by the police chief.....
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Old 06-07-2007, 12:40 AM   #24
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I applaud the Patrol Officer for seeing what was up. A quick polite contact to determine if laws are being broken or a person needs assistance is what patrolmen do.
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Old 06-07-2007, 06:28 AM   #25
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this is the reality of things since 9/11... like it or not, LEO's are required to have an increased vigilance, particularly with things that on the surface appear innocuous. This guy could have been using this network to hijack other computers in some sort of nefarious activities…

some of the other comments on this thread talk about recommending the officer find some ‘real’ criminals… a law is a law, folks.. and there’s nothing more insidious to our freedom than those ‘laws’ that nobody enforces- think about it.
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Old 06-07-2007, 06:53 AM   #26
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Law is law but there is way to apply it. Told the guy he was not supposed to do what he did would have been enough.
But this policeman must be proud to caught such a criminal.
That he tried to figure out what was going on is ok but why put this guy under arrest...
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Old 06-07-2007, 07:44 AM   #27
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I used to create scenarios, so I'll give you two, on opposite sides of the coin:
#1
John Smith is parked out front of the coffee house checking his email, like he has done daily for months. Things have not been going well for him, he has lost his job, wife and home, and is living out of his car. All he has to his name is his clothes, his car, and his laptop. He has been trying to find a job, and is using the free wifi to check help wanted ads, and hoping for a response to any of his resumes. Nothing. Terrific, Now what's he going to do?
About this time, Officer Friendly stops by to check on who this strange scruffy-looking guy is, and what he's doing outside the coffee shop. After trying to exchange pleasantries with John Smith, and getting not much but a bad attitude in response, Officer Friendly takes down Smith's personal info, and runs a check on him, He's clean, so Officer Friendly lets him go. After discussing this with his watch commander, they decide to see if any laws are being broken so they can get Mr. Smith to leave the area. Turns out there is, and charges are brought.

#2 John Smith is on his way back to work during his lunch break, and swings into the coffee shop near his place of employment to check his email. He's done this for months, and thinks there is no problem since there is a sign hanging in te front window advertising free wifi. As he is downloading his mail, he is approached by Officer Friendly, who has just been screamed at by his watch commande that he is not taking his job seriously, and he better get out here and find some criminals. After all, crime stats are up in his town, and he hasn't made an arrest in weeks. So, Officer Friendly investigates, and finds John Smith pretty much minding his business, using the advertised free wifi. After taking down Smith's personal info, Officer Friendly goes back to the station, and checks to see if any crime has been committed. Turns out there has, sort of, and he gets to arrest Smith for the crime. He has made an arrest, the watch commander is of his back, and life is good for him again.

Both these stories are purely hypothetical, and are brought to you merely to show how totally different situations could cause the same result in the end.
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Old 06-07-2007, 10:24 AM   #28
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Why didn't the officer get the story from the wifi poacher in the car, and then go into the coffee shop and notify them that they had a wifi poacher in the parking lot and ASK the owner of the network if he had any problem with people doing this sort of thing?
If the coffee shop owner has a problem with wifi theives, then he can "press charges" or press the point with the guy in the car.
If the coffee shop owner says, I don't have a problem with him doing what he is doing, then he has established "goodwill" (the intent of the free wifi) and he can at that point go out to the car and "make a new friend and customer".

IMO, the officer handling the "investigation" (term loosely used) mishandled his responsibilities by failing to bring the coffee shop owner in to the "investigation". A HUGE stone left unturned at the scene.

Had the owner of the unprotected wifi signal been brought into the process at the scene, the officer could have made an additional contact with the public, gotten public brownie points with the coffee shop owner that his shop was being "watched" for public safety, and every party involved would have known there was no harm and no foul.

Instead, the Keystone Cop fails to properly prosecute the investigation at the scene, brings his supervisor and the DA into it, and DAYS later the wifi thief is notified by the "headline grabbing for re-election and revenues to the County", Criminal DA that he could be charged with a felony for doing something nobody cared about unless he plea bargains down to a $400 fine and 40 hours of community service.

I hope the DA loses his bid for re-election as a result of the wifi thief telling everyone he knows about the over zealous prosecutor that let this go through.
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Old 06-07-2007, 11:51 AM   #29
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I was reading more about this incident, and a quote from the restaurant owner initially indicated little or no concern about the issue, and didn't know anything about legal issues involved.

This DA is just plain nuts in my book. I would love to see this challenged in court. If the law indicates "unauthorized" use, and the business owner has a free and open signal, used to draw customers,with no posted restrictions, and made no complaint, then where is the problem under the law?

$400. fine/ 40 hours of community service?! Someone should have told him to leave if it concerned them so much. And lock down the router.
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Old 06-07-2007, 03:09 PM   #30
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I sympathize with the guy that got busted. He must have been worried to death and relieved at his sentence, stiff at it was, they must have frightened him with worse. That had to disrupt quite a few lives and schedules to say the least. Lots of money for everyone out of the "criminal's" pocket. They say the policeman is your friend, but I would just as soon avoid any contact with the police just to play it safe... More than likely he was told it would be much cheaper and less risky and soonest to put it behind him to take the deal and that advice was probably good as gold, but that's a shame.
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Old 06-07-2007, 03:44 PM   #31
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Old 06-07-2007, 03:51 PM   #32
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So now why am I thinking Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke and Pappion with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. You can't break me copper ...hmmm that sounds like James Cagney. (I just dated myself!)
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Old 06-07-2007, 06:14 PM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by finalcutjoe
… a law is a law, folks.. and there’s nothing more insidious to our freedom than those ‘laws’ that nobody enforces- think about it.
Or those that they enforce incorrectly. This law was written to give them a way to prosecute hackers who gain access to a computer system where they are not supposed to. That's a completely different situation. When new technology becomes available (and ten years ago who saw free public wi-fi coming?) then the laws need to be re-written to not hamper the use of those new technologies.

It's a shame the guy didn't fight it, because that's how you get rediculous laws like this rewritten, so they apply to criminals, and not people who were just using thier computer in the wrong place.

When laws are badly written, it effects everyones freedom. People need to be outraged enough to get them to change it.

Until then, be careful if you're surfing in MI.
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Old 06-07-2007, 06:36 PM   #34
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Did anyone read this in the local newspaper themselves, a direct reporting article, not a wire human-interest item, or is the original source an email?

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Old 06-07-2007, 06:58 PM   #35
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Are you looking for a news link? I found this.

FOXNews.com - Michigan Man Fined for Using Coffee Shop's Wi-Fi Network - Technology News | News On Technology
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Old 06-07-2007, 07:26 PM   #36
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This is the original story

WOODTV.com & WOOD TV8 - Grand Rapids news, weather, sports and video - A wireless felony

A cowork sent this to me and I simply copied the text from WOODTV.COM.

We had been talking about how I would gain access to email while on our family three week vacation to Nova Scotia and he said he had just read an interesting article about FREE WIFI.

I know many of use FREE WIFI in our travels and I thought I would share this story with the Airstream family.

I hope this clears up the source questions. [But I have to agree that this SOUNDS like something from the National Enquire rather than a TV station.]
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Old 06-07-2007, 09:03 PM   #37
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I'm guilty...... I've been known to frequent the parking lots of hotels, coffee shops, book stores, etc., with my laptop. Never thought of it as theft, it was free! Never had any one question me about it either. Maybe there's a little more to this story........

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Old 06-07-2007, 09:10 PM   #38
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I can see both sides of the issue. It's kind of like if you go into the coffee shop and get a handful of napkins everyday. Yes, they are free, but sooner or later you are going to be confronted with the fact that the coffee shop owner is paying for them, but you aren't buying anything to let him earn a profit to cover the cost...same with the wi-fi you are using. At the same time, he was, I believe, in the public right-of-way and using something that was freely available in the public right-of-way. But on the other hand, he knew who was providing it and he wasn't buying anything to cover its cost.

I, too, would have liked for him to have challenged the fine and public service deal rather than plea-bargain, but I can certainly understand why he didn't. It was cheaper than hiring a lawyer and he wouldn't get an arrest record. He had much more to loose if he had lost the case and with today's fickle juries I would have been afraid to go to a jury trial myself.

A quick, and true, story. A lawyer friend of mine told me that several years ago a man bought a lawn mower. He took the handle off and the wheels off and attached two 2X4's to the bottom sides of the mower deck to use as handles. He lifted the mower up to trim his hedges. One day it slipped and cut four of his fingers off of one of his hands. He sued the manufacturer. The jury awarded in his favor because there was no warning on the LAWN mower that you shouldn't use the LAWN mower to trim your hedges. This is why most everything you buy now days has a manufacturer's label that states something to the effect that it is unlawful to use their product for any purpose other than the one that it was intended.

I just don't know if I would have trusted my fate to a jury of strangers. I agree there should have been bigger fish for the officer to fry, but without being there there is no way to know all of the circumstances that may have led to the situation.

Yes, Pat, I saw an article this morning on MSN.com about the arrest of the user of the free wi-fi incident, but I didn't take time to read it...it seems it really did happen.

Yet, five years ago three middle eastern men stopped in a restaurant in a North Atlanta suburb on their way to Miami and made a lot of comments about planned presidential assassination attempts and other terrorist activities and when the waitress called the FBI to investigate, she was the one that nearly got arrested...our law enforcement will arrest people for piggybacking free wi-fi but they won't go after potential terrorist that are plotting against our government and the legal citizens of our country!
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Old 06-08-2007, 11:41 AM   #39
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Well, thanks for the link. It appears to be true; sad, but true anyway.

Sorry I doubted you guys.

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Old 06-08-2007, 12:18 PM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts
Or those that they enforce incorrectly. This law was written to give them a way to prosecute hackers who gain access to a computer system where they are not supposed to. That's a completely different situation. When new technology becomes available (and ten years ago who saw free public wi-fi coming?) then the laws need to be re-written to not hamper the use of those new technologies.

It's a shame the guy didn't fight it, because that's how you get rediculous laws like this rewritten, so they apply to criminals, and not people who were just using thier computer in the wrong place.

When laws are badly written, it effects everyones freedom. People need to be outraged enough to get them to change it.

Until then, be careful if you're surfing in MI.
I’m not so sure, Stefrobrts.
I caught a local news item on this, and they made it sound like the law is there to provide prosecutors a way to investigate terrorist activities on-line.
i.e. if an ‘evil-doer’ was spiking a network, probing security, or even hijacking servers for sending ‘male-enhancement’ spam-mails (any number of things this individual could have been doing)

the only point I was trying to make was the significance of enforcing laws in this country. I know I’m opening a can ‘o flame, but take for instance the immigration woes we’re having- a lot of the problems would be minimized if we simply enforced (and had been enforcing) the laws that are already on the books…
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