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War Driving - Legal or Not

By al ·
I've read all of the posts, and I still find it amazing that there is even a question asked here. The answer is VERY simple. War Driving is illegal if and only if you are attempting to bypass a password, WEP key or similar device designed to prevent unauthorized access to the network. War Driving - and 'poaching' service on open, unencrypted wireless networks is not. End of discussion. This has been decided in the courts and is addressed in the United States Code. I can't believe people still ask. WAKE UP - if you don't want people on your wireless network - password protect it. Frankly there are 9.9 gazillion wireless networks out there with ssid's like linksys or netgear. Admittedly SOME of these are intentionally open and some are open out of ignorance - but remember - ignorance of the law is not an excuse. That sword cuts both ways. If you try to crack a protected network, and you don't know its illegal - you're still guilty. On the other hand, if you're ignorant of the fact that not protecting your network with a minimal WEP key, then your ignorance does not make use of your network illegal. I have two networks at my office - one open and one not. Anyone who drives by is free to use ssid SRLLC - it's a convenience to visitors, known and unknown. SBSLLC is a password protected, wireless network - crack and ye shall be fined.

NOTE: Giving your router a unique ssid is NOT a barrier to allowing others to use it.

As to the issue of 'unauthorized use' - if a network is not protected, you are implicitly or explicitly sending a message authorizing use of the network. If you protect it, you are explicitly sending a message to stay away or be subject to fine, imprisonment or both.

Grow up - read the manual. If you don't want people on your network - protect it. Period.

Al Case
Stamford Research, LLC

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by Cactus Pete In reply to War Driving - Legal or No ...

How about if you don't broadcast the SSID?
How about if it's locked to just one MAC?

Either way, it's still possible for a skilled person to use the connection, though an attempt was made to secure it.

Same with WEP. Crackable.

We can easily draw the line at the point where someone actively attempts to break the encryption, but what about lower - where someone spoofs teh MAC or finds hidden SSIDs?

And if you can lower it to that level, why NOT lowering it to "unprotected" access points?

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OK... response

by al In reply to OK...

Hiding the SSID is not the same as password protecting or encrypting - hence, probably, but possibly not sufficient as a "Trespassers will be prosecuted" sign. Why not just password/WEP? THAT makes it illegal for sure.

You are addressing a different issue here. The original question was the legality/ethics of war driving. The answer was War Driving is legal/ethical if one uses only open, unsecured wireless networks - and those are any networks that are not password protected in some fashion.

War driving where one 'cracks' a secured network is ILLEGAL and UNETHICAL.

You actually raise two questions: 1) How do I keep war drivers out of my network (i.e., how do I make sure my network is secure); vs. 2). What is the minimum I have to do if I want to post a "No Trespassing" sign on my network and make it illegal for someone to poach my time.

Al Case
Stamford Research

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by Cactus Pete In reply to OK... response

You're lumping legal and ethical completely into the same basket. I wouldn't agree with that.

It might not be illegal to use an ignorant user's unsecured wireless hotspot, but it is unethical unless you know the owner wouldn't mind - like you're a visitor there.

Wardriving implies that you're not a welcome visitor, or that you even know the owner. It can't be ethical in that case.

Taking advantage of someone else's ignorance is not ethical.

And I realize that hiding the SSID is not the same as putting up a WEP or WPA key. But the question is where the law should draw the line. This you did not address.

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Ethical, Legal and Acceptable

by al In reply to Ethical?

There are many, many individuals who make their network open, or don't care - either for commercial reasons (come to my free hot spot). The fact is, it is NOT incumbent (either ethically or legally) to ask permission to use the free airwaves. Ignorance is not an excuse. If you put a nice wooden lawn chair in the park next to your house - I will sit on it! It's a nice chair, and it's in a public place, and it doesn't have a "keep off, private" sign on it. If you put bandwidth under my nose, I have a right to assume its available. In fact, my prediction is that, within 5 years FREE wireless access will be ubiquitous and this will be a moot point. But for now - My position is its is both ethical AND legal. What is neither ethical NOR legal is poaching secured bandwidth by cracking. I do not believe that it was the intention of the U.S. Founding Fathers to protect the ignorant from themselves. I do not believe that it is MY responsibility to verify the "intentions" of the provider of radio waves in my vicinity. Sirius and XM radio encrypt theirs - Citizen's Band and Family Band radio do not, cellular phones do, broadcast TV and terrestrial radio do not (on the outbound side).
The precedent has been set - live with it.

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Where is the difference?

by Cactus Pete In reply to Ethical, Legal and Accept ...

If you are not necessarily equating Ethical and Legal, what (with respect to this topic) might be legal, but not ethical? Can you tell the two apart?

By the way, reciving the signal, in my opinion, is not a problem. It's sending the instructions back into the device and then to the owner's ISP that crosses a line.

I expect that it will soon be illegal, and I feel it is already unethical.

And for your 5 year prediction, I don't suspect that internet services will ever become completely free. Ubiquitous, I certainly hope so, but free, no.

The signal you receive may be on public land, but you are then connecting back to a device that is not. (Talking about a home situation) So you knowingly intend to use a service for which someone else is paying. You claim ignorance that you can't tell if it's personal or they meant to leave it open for you to use - and you claim ignorance is no excuse.

Which way is it?

Precedent has not been set. Please provide specific examples if you think it has. (Quote the lines and provde the exact links.)

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No Trespassing Signs do exist on WiFi

by wildwasser In reply to OK... response

i recently saw an SSID called "FUCKOFF"... i think that was a clear "No Trespassing" sign. and yes it was somehow encrypted, and no i didn't try to access it, or even break its encryption.

I think the reason for the name was that it was positioned close to a railway station, and considering how many bored commuters would try to access free internet while waiting for the train... it's totally understandable.

I totally support the use of Wardriving... but i think the definition needs to explained first before people are taught how to do it... i have friends who reply with "Thieving f#@cking mongrels" when i even mention the words "War driving". People think it means "connecting to a WiFi network in the wild" (people who do it, and people who don't) so i would say we should get that cleared up before you even start talking about whether it's legal or not.

as to the legality of Wardriving itself, lets make a simple comparison... is it illegal to walk down a street with a pen and paper, noting down the numbers and names of every mailbox, and noting if the mailbox has a visible lock on the outside of it (ie just looking with their eyes, and not their fingers)? ...because that's a direct translation of what the official description of Wardriving is.

but if someone walks down a street and notes the names and numbers of mailboxes, and tries to physically open the mailboxes (whether it has a visible lock or not) then they are obviously breaking some kind of law... and risking having a shotgun pointed at their head if they live in redneck territory.

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Word Origins (barely on topic)

by CharlieSpencer In reply to War Driving - Legal or No ...

Could someone tell me the origin of the phrase "war driving" as a synonym for unauthorized use of a wireless access point?

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Came from a movie, I think

by Cactus Pete In reply to Word Origins (barely on t ...

The old movie War Games made it popular to say "War Dialing". A long time ago, the only way to connect from home to another computer was to have the modem dial another modem. You could set your computer to dial a group of numbers all night to check for one that answered and was an actual computer. Then you could check you logs and try to use (break in) to that system.

War Driving was the modern equivilent, hence the name.

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Gracias, senor.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Came from a movie, I thin ...

There's a movie I haven't thought about in a while. I'll have to rent it and check for the reference.

What do you mean, "A long time ago"? That was just in the early 90's.

<<Uses walker to get to the Oldsmobile, drives from Silver Ice Floe Retirement Home to Denny's before Seniors special ends at 4:30>>

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A "long time"

by Cactus Pete In reply to Gracias, senor.

For someone who can't remember yesterday, the early 90s was a very long time ago indeed!

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