Legal Entrapment with WiFi access

This caught my attention this morning and upon reflection saddens me

A recent court case, which saw a West London man fined £500 and sentenced to 12 months' conditional discharge for hijacking a wireless broadband connection, has repercussions for almost every user of wi-fi networks.

To summarise, the guy was jumping onto residents WiFi networks while sitting in a car at the road.  So he simply opened up his laptop, searched for the nearest open WiFi and started surfing.  There was no actual proof he was using their computers or gaining access to their files, he was just surfing the net while waiting for the gridlock in London to move another 5 feet.

So who is at fault here?  The network owner for not securing his network, effectively leaving his door wide open for anyone to wander in, or the enterprising chap in the car utilising some down time for some idle surfing?  Two sides here.  The network owner could be accussed of entrapment, knowingly keeping his network open waiting to snare someone.  One would have to prove he was capable of such devious thoughts.  Although if he can report the fact that someone else is using his network, then there is a level of technical savy there already.  What about the opportunist surfer?  He could have had criminal tendencies and instead of surfing, purposely looking for sensitive files on 3rd party computers.

Either way I think this case sets a worrying presidence.  Should we be held criminally responsible if we tune our radios into a private radio broadcast?  What if I drive close enough to someone that is using those devices to broadcast from their iPOD/MP3 player to their car radio?  How far away must I be before it's not a criminal offence?

Think about it.  It is a wonderful way to make money here.  Get yourself a really powerful WiFi setup.  Something similar to those that are being setup in villages and communities that have a few miles reception.  Then just sit there and wait for people to be caught as their Windows machines innocently pick them up and connect to them all without a single key press from the user in question.

What intrigues me is why would the network owner report them to the police?  Why didn't he simply shut him down and install a network key.  Or even better, install some software and charge him for the access!  This could have played out so much differently and been a win-win for everyone.


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