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Old 06-06-2007, 05:06 PM   #15
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This has all the hallmarks of an urban legend. You know - "tell all your friends..."


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Old 06-06-2007, 05:15 PM   #16
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I hope this gets challenged in court

I tried to follow the link to "Fraudulent access to computers, computer systems, and computer networks" but it opened some goofy access window. Without reading the law I don't see what's "fraudulent" unless the poacher used the network to commit some sort of crime. If the coffee shop didn't want anyone on their network they should have made it password protected. Simply getting on a network to check email should not be a crime. It's not only a victimless crime, it's a perpless crime. Wow, with all the real crime out there, this is all they could find.... Unreal!

Whenever we're traveling and enter a town I get out the ibook and start waving it around like a Geiger counter looking for wifi. Most of the networks that come up are password protected, but when we find one that's not, we get on to check email and see what's happening on the Forums. And this is a crime???

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Old 06-06-2007, 05:25 PM   #17
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Actually, this problem has been around for quite some time now, only more recently to pop up with computer networks. Years ago, it was about satellite TV.

Remember those folkswith those huge 10-foot satellite dishes? Well, a number of outfits produced receiver units that could intercept these signals, so users were effectively "stealing" signals with these units. The idea was that the signal was literally falling out of the sky onto people's property, so the signal should be free to use by those property owners.

Noooooooo, said the courts. Even though the signal was literally falling from the sky onto your property, you can't use it unless you pay for it.

Obviously, the same situation obtains with wifi signals, which just happen to be flying out of coffee shops, passing right through your vehicle's body, and smashing into your computer. Can you allow your computer to interpret the signal? Nooooooope, not without the signal owner's permission.

Seems dumb, but that's the way it works.

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Old 06-06-2007, 05:33 PM   #18
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If the restaurant is giving away the wifi to attract customers, I would say it is a pretty gray area to arrest someone for using it in a parking lot. I would be very surprised if this stands up after a day in court.

Frankly, IMO, anyone who is running wifi unsecured really doesn't have much of a claim of theft of services.
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Old 06-06-2007, 05:45 PM   #19
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free with a password

Maybe those coffee shops should say that wifi is free with a cup of coffee purchase and password protect their assets. Seems like a no brainer. It protects their systems and allows customers the option of wifi that is a little safer.
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Old 06-06-2007, 06:04 PM   #20
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If its advertised as free WIFI with no advertised "conditions or purchase required" Why are we talking about this, This is petty and a useless arrest.


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Old 06-06-2007, 08:40 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, 10:58 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 06-06-2007, 11:08 PM   #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 06-06-2007, 11:40 PM   #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, 05:28 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, 05:53 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, 06:44 AM   #27
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I used to create scenarios, so I'll give you two, on opposite sides of the coin:
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, 09:24 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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