UK Law and wireless network access
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Thread: UK Law and wireless network access

  1. #1
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    UK Law and wireless network access

    Hi everyone

    So far as I'm aware, it's illegal to drive around in the UK with a laptop and connect to a random wireless network, but which law or Act of Parliament covers this? Is it simply theft or is it a more specific computer-related law? I know that the Computer Misuse Act covers unauthorised access to a computer, whether well-intentioned or not, but would this also include unauthorised access to a wireless router?

    This is just a general question out of interest - I don't know anyone who does this, I haven't been doing it, nor do I intend doing so!

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Senior Member nihil's Avatar
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    Hi Ignatius,

    It isn't actually "illegal" as far as I am aware. You would have to knowingly "steal" someone else's resource.

    For example, there are at least 3 "free" ones where I am. These are intentional, and deliberately provided as a public service. Bridlington only has a population of 30,000 and is very "hicksville" when it comes to IT.

    If you fire up a laptop and find a "resource". how are you to know if it is intentional or not?

    I do not believe that there is any law covering an open connection.

    A very grey area as far as I am aware

  3. #3
    Senior Member ShippMA's Avatar
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    Hi,

    I'll just say i have not read into this area much, so this is my own "common sense" reasoning and feel free to pick any wholes in it you see

    I too am not aware of any law, however if we assumed one did exist, then the next question is how would it be enforced?

    it would be easy to tell that someone was using a connection without permission simply by comparing IP's however proving that person X did this would be a different matter. The only way to do it would be to have access to their PC, which firstly they aren't likely to allow.

    However if we then assume that somehow we gained access to that persons PC and we found out that it was them, then how would the Police prosecute? They wouldn't seize and search that PC only on our word that it is guilty. In order to do that they would have to have evidence pointing to that person/PC and we can't get that without the guilty PC.

    In my view it is one of those areas where a law shouldn't be made. I think that if you take the risk of setting up a wireless network at work or home (which incidentally i have) then the owner should be responsible for securing it and the owner should take appropriate precautions.

    The question then becomes what if someone uses the network for illegal activities and you get Mr Plod knocking on your door. Firstly they should be able to tell (admittedly after seizing your equipment) that it wasn't you or any of those PC's. It is likely that all they would have to connect your network to it is the signature of the router which would in no way be enough to charge you however that is where i think you should be responsible for securing your network and if you haven't taken "appropriate" precautions (whatever they may be deeemed to be) you are at the very least guilty of aiddng and abbetting all be it unknowingly.

    Lastly you then have to think about what happens with a network setup specifically for people to use for free, like you might have in a shopping centre or something. I would say that these people still need to be held responsible for what there network is used for, however they should be responsible for keeping accurate logs of who uses it. That would be there "defense"

    Hmmm i think i'm done,
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    Senior Member nihil's Avatar
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    Hey ShippMA how are things in Crawley..............it is snowing here

    To add to your analysis, I would wonder about "hijacking"................like I have my own system and stuff, all fully paid for.......................but something more powerful/sensitive than mine takes over the connection?

    OK we are talking out of the box unsecured stuff, but there is a lot of that around?


  5. #5
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    Originally posted here by nihil
    Hey ShippMA how are things in Crawley..............it is snowing here
    Hi nihil i have just read your post and looked out the window and it is snowing here aswell .

    I am from the small city of Bristol.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ShippMA's Avatar
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    Hey Nihil,

    Lucky bugger , no its not snowing in Crawley (actually i'm in Woking as thats where i work but its not snowing here either) It did last Thursday and Woking looked great, but by the time i was home it was gone

    I this what you are talking about?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4190607.stm

    I wasn't aware of this (like i said i haven't really read much into this area) but that to me seems a far greater risk than someone just connecting to an open router.

    I was thinking that to minimise the risk of that causing any real problems for you you should simply not use a public conection for anything that requires a password or is sensitive to you, however that then starts to negate the point of being able to use a connection "on the go" as that severely restricts what you can do.

    Are we talking about a criminal sniffing for a single connection and hijacking it to log what the user is doing, or are we talking about criminals setting up for X time and just stealing anyone that tries to connect to the legit point. If the latter is true then the criminals achiles heal is the fact that they would have to be setup for a little while to make it worth there while, and be within a certain radius of the legit point. I would say if that is the case then the provider would very quickly notice a drop in users and then there should be procedures for tracking it down (admittedly i would have no idea about the feasibility of this, but thats what "should" happen ) If we are talking about a criminal taking over a single users connection then thats totally different and would be near impossible to capture and prosecute.

    I think at the end of the day the "responsibility" for stopping this must lie with the provider in making sure that the connection is sufficiently secure to stop hijack attempts. How i wouldn't know.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member nihil's Avatar
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    Hi YoungNobody

    I am from the small city of Bristol.
    I am quite partial to a Bristol, but I prefer them in pairs.............and large

    Hmmmm...........................up to the White Tree Roundabout.............turn left down Parry's Lane......pass Wills' Hall of Residence..................then you find the Zoo? (The Animals of Hiatt Baker Hall of Residence?)..................carry on down and you will get to Shirehampton...............

    Small World?

    EDIT: Oh! it would be up BlackBoy Hill......................

  8. #8
    Right turn Clyde Nokia's Avatar
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    Alright, who mentioned snow! I rolled outta the legion at half 5 this morning (somewhat worse for wear) to start my stagger home, lo and behold, its bloody snowing! Boy was that a cold walk home!

    I blame you nihil for mentioning snow!
    Drugs have taught an entire generation of kids the metric system.

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  9. #9
    Member omin's Avatar
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    I don't know of any laws covering this in the UK but would hazard a guess that it is not illegal to simply connect to an access point even without explicit permission (dosn't XP connect to any available wi-fi network by default? - a user may not even know they are connected).

    I would have thought that it is the owner of the access points responsibility to ensure that they have the relevant security in place but of course there are always people who don't even know there is any security available let alone know how to set it up.

    Take for example a case where someone uses your (unsecured) wi-fi and d'ls something illehal and the police trace it to your network. As ShippMA says, once they have siezed your equipment and searched it they should be able to tell it was not you that was doing this d/ling. Again this raises the question of responsibilty. Are you the responsible person for not securing your network properly or a you just a 'victim'?

    The weather in Bristol today has been f***ed. It can't seem to make up it's mind. One min bright sunshine, then snow, then sun, then rain. Ack!
    \"Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth,
    nor does lightning travel in a straight line.\" -Benoit Mandelbrot

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