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Using neighbor's Wi-Fi is hot topic
Many readers say if it's in your house, it's not stealing; can Net monitoring programs still work?
August 17, 2005: 5:03 PM EDT
By Steve Hargreaves, CNN/Money staff writer
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Evidently, stealing your neighbor's Internet connection is on a lot of people's minds.

Earlier this month, a CNN/Money article explored the legality and risks of piggy-backing on your neighbor's wireless connection without paying for it, or even letting your neighbor know what you're doing.

The story touched a nerve within a large part of our audience. About a million people read it, and many of them were provoked enough to write in to share their thoughts.

Most of the e-mails we received took the tone of "if it's not secured, and it's in my house, it's not stealing." Which was interesting, because two-thirds of the respondents in our poll said using your neighbors wireless connection is stealing.

Here's a sample of what people think, based on the mail we received:

If it's in my house, it's mine

-- "This is not illegal and is not even stealing. Your router device is specifically configurable to encrypt your wireless connection. You cannot "steal" something if it is being openly broadcast!

"It is the responsibility of the consumer of such product to properly secure their signal. In fact, Internet providers should require encryption of wireless or have their customers disconnected or sued." -- Thomas S.

-- "I'm a software engineer of 25 years professional experience. Since the introduction of wireless access points, a social convention has emerged, which is: If the access point is not expressly secured against unauthorized use, then anyone is free to use it, within reason." -- Leo L. S.

-- "Isn't my neighbor violating my rights by inundating my apartment with 'Internet' waves? Isn't he/she essentially asking for it by not securing their networks? If someone leaves a magazine or book outside of my door, it is a crime if I pick it up and read it? If you don't want it taken, don't leave it lying around." -- Bob K.

Pay up

-- "If I am paying for Wi-Fi service and someone uses it when I am paying for it, they are stealing plain and simple. This is not gray, it is black and white." -- Trett T.

Protecting children

-- "I have 3 children, 2 teens and one pre-teen. Each of my kids have a laptop, with wireless connectivity to my secure connection. I also implemented some usage restrictions, including certain hours of operation, etc. I live in a suburban/rural environment, with houses some distance apart.

"To my surprise, I found that not only could I see a number of other networks from various parts of my house, most of them were wide-open in terms of Internet content and access times. Since the wireless connections auto-detect nearby networks, it would be simple for any of my children to potentially hop onto another network, rendering my own protections useless." -- Paul G.

The future?

-- "Why not make the Internet access 'free' just like TV airwaves? After all, it is the information superhighway." -- S. S.


For the original story on stealing your neighbor's Wi-Fi, click here.

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