Is using someone else's Wi-Fi an actual crime?


There was an adorable article in Time magazine last week about Wi-Fi theft. The author, Lev Grossman, admits to being a “Wi-Fi thief” for several years, using his neighbors’ unsecured Wi-Fi without them knowing. He calls it a crime, a direct violation of Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 47 of the United States Code.

But is that really theft?

TechDirt argues that when someone leaves an access point open, they are essentially granting permission to anyone to use it. And if you’ve granted permission, how can someone’s access be unauthorized and illegal? Cracking someone’s WEP (people still use WEP around here) and then using that connection, obviously, is a different story.

Bonus points if you have a swashbuckling “I stole teh Wi-Fi!1” story to share. I tried to crack my neighbor’s WEP a few years ago, which means I was savvy enough to fire up Linux and run AirSnort. Hardcore hacking, in other words.