If you're stealing bandwidth from a neighbor's WLAN, you better read this

I know several people that have taken advantage of the fact that at least one of their neighbors has an unsecured Wireless Access Point connected to a broadband Internet connection. I often mention that they are technically stealing bandwidth by doing this, but that usually only generates a laugh and a shrug. Well, today I read a story that I hope will serve as a cautionary tale for anyone out there that is stealing bandwidth from a neighbor. A Florida man was arrested in April for stealing bandwidth from a home Wi-Fi network.

Interestingly, a Gartner analyst interviewed for this story placed the blame for the incident on the guy who didn't lock down his WLAN. I agree that the guy — and a lot of other folks that have unsecured WLANs — need to take respsonsibility for learning to secure their networks if they are going to run wireless. However, I am appalled by the argument of the Gartner analyst. It's the same thing as saying that if a person leaves their front door unlocked, then they deserve to get robbed and we shouldn't place any blame on the robber. That's an ethically-bankrupt argument and I certainly would not want to live in a society that has that kind of mindset. A person who knowingly and willfully steals something deserves to be punished according to the full extent of the law — and that includes you, if you're stealing bandwidth.


Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about how technology is changing the way we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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