Is stealing wireless wrong?
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Thread: Is stealing wireless wrong?

  1. #1

    Is stealing wireless wrong?

    I read an interesting article at I thought it might be an interesting topic to stimulate discussion, and posts. :P The author explores whether using someone's unsecured wireless is wrong. In most countries/states/cities I'm aware of it's illegal, but is it immoral?

    From the comments it looks like there are a lot of people on both sides of the debate.

    In the article and comments there were some good and not so good analogies. I thought the “open door” analogy was kind of dumb. Just because someone leaves their door unlocked doesn’t mean it’s okay for me go in for a sit. The “light” or “heat” analogies make it a little murkier. Is it wrong to read a book using light coming from someone’s window? Is it wrong to stand outside a bakery to warm your hands?

    For myself, I tend to think of it as being wrong. Hypothetically, if I was to use my neighbor’s t.v. cable connection without his knowledge, and even though he didn’t notice any change in his service, I’d still feel guilty.

    Does anyone else have any thoughts, opinions?

    Oh yeah, as an aside, maybe I’m just paranoid about identify theft, but the thought of not securing a home wireless network gives me shivers.
    Why is everyone who drives slower than me an idiot, and everyone who drives faster a maniac?

  2. #2
    Registered User Regular Member wallaceb's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    Infront of a Computer
    i know in Illinois it is illegal, and you can get a fine of some amount (i do not know how much)
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  3. #3
    Administrator Honored Elder jeriddian's Avatar
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    Jun 2006
    Denton, Texas
    It can depend on societal norms. In this country, and I assume most first world nations, the general idea is that taking or using anything that doesn't belong to you, irregardless of whether or not it does any damage or produces any unnecessary cost to the owner is at least unethical and probably immoral, albeit in a case like this in a minor sense.

    At the same time, it also depends on what specific act is being considered. If you leave a bicycle out and someone takes and uses it and then returns it intact, obviously there was no intent of theft, just unauthorized use. The owner could be chastised for carelessness in not locking up the bike, but still the act of taking the bike without asking permission is seen as unacceptable in normal society. For this example, if you initiate a wireless without encrypting it, and knowing that it should be encrypted, some people would say you should know better than to not to have encrypted the wireless. Still, the act of using the wireless without permission is still equivalent to the bicycle example, generally, because it is a paid service (through an ISP) under the auspices of the owner of the wireless.

    If there is a difference, it may be that there is no physical taking of a piece of property here. Some people may argue that not encrypting a wireless is tantamount to giving implicit permission to its use by anybody who is in range. Some people may argue that not locking up the bicycle would give the same implicit permission, but that would be a much harder row to hoe, ethically and morally. Either way, I think that this argument of implicit permission is disrespectful of other people's property and therefore invalid. Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should.
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  4. #4
    Registered User Elite Member Cloud23465's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    I dunno how it be stealing, Using maybe. Their cant actually be any physical taking... but then again thats the only kinda stealing i know of. I've actually done this before at my brothers shop. A neighbors shop had wireless and I bring my laptop and surf the net with it.

    Now if someone was going in and changing things, Locking people out of there network, or trying to remotely acess someones wireless network to hack and steal information then of course it sould be. I know if he did something like this in the US in a major city he'd probably had something like this happen already. I say no harm, no foul.

  5. #5
    Registered User Exalted Member Rob's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    Metro Detroit
    "Let us redefine progress, to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we must do that thing."

    It comes down to this. If it's something that's provided at a cost, and you're not paying for it, and the person that is paying for it hasn't explicitly given you permission to use it, then it's stealing.

    Of course, if your neighbor who has a WiFi connection comes over and says, "Hey, yeah, go ahead!", then it's different... I mean, it's his prerogative.

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