Is it a crime to borrow someones Wi-Fi?

As RVers Fran and I have used unsecured Wi-FI networks to get internet access while on the road but this article gave me something to think about.

If your neighbor left his lawnmower in the front yard, would you borrow it without his knowledge?

Probably not.

But what about the wireless Internet connection he leaves unsecured?

The scenario might pose an ethical dilemma, but many folks think nothing of checking their e-mail or surfing the Web via the neighbor’s wireless Internet.

Here’s how it happens: Most of today’s laptops are wireless ready, allowing them to pick up nearby Wi-Fi signals. This easily can be done where people live close together, such as a condo building, town house or apartment complex.

Some computer users even will drive around their neighborhoods, laptops in tow, looking for signals.”

“It’s not like I can get people’s information,” said Hampshire resident Chris Carr. He admits to occasionally cruising the block with his laptop. “All it allows me to do is go online.”

A busy contractor, Carr, 41, said he can’t always get to a coffee shop or other public facility where Wi-Fi often is free or available for a small charge.

“If they don’t secure it, it’s an open connection,” Carr said.

Ethics are only part of the debate when it comes to the temptation to use an unsecured Wi-Fi signal.

These days, a tech-savvy cop might know exactly what you’re up to.

A Loves Park police officer arrested a man last year after he was found sitting in a car outside a nonprofit agency with a laptop in his lap. The man was charged with remotely accessing another computer system without the owner’s permission, said Winnebago County Assistant State’s Attorney Tom Wartowski.

The man pleaded guilty to the charge in March. He was fined $250 and sentenced to a year of court supervision, Wartowski said.

Accessing anyone’s computer system without his or her approval, even if it’s just using an unsecured Wi-Fi signal, is prohibited under state law, he said.

“It’s the same as going into somebody’s house without their authorization,” he said. “People have said to me, ‘If you don’t want somebody to get into the system you can put in firewalls and other protection.’ My response is, ‘If someone comes into your house because you left the door unlocked, is that OK?’ Of course not.”
Full Story…

“The RVers Guide to Internet Access on the Road” covers all the options for getting internet access on the road… Wi-Fi, Cellular, Satellite… more!

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