Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Internet Access

Itis a beautiful morning, you wake up, don the bathrobe and stroll out to grab the paper from the stoop. You bend over and suddenly notice the new garden hose stretching from your faucet into the kitchen window of the neighboris house! Heis using your water, a municipal service that you pay for! You angrily stride over to confront this guy only to have him tell you that not only is he not sorry, but itis your fault for not locking your faucet.

Youid be pretty angry because, without your permission, itis stealing.

So you go back inside and fire up your Airport equipped laptop and switch over to that new wireless network that popped up the other day. You donit know where itis coming from but man, can you download files from the internet fast and you donit have to pay that ISP anymore!

Thereis nothing wrong with using someone elseis wireless network, right? If the owner cared, they would have taken the proper precautions. Besides, itis not hurting anyone. They probably werenit using all that bandwidth anyway. As long as I donit intend to do anything malicious, itis ok. Iill only do it a few times a day. Theyill never find out and never notice. My car had a flat. The dog ate my homework. I was in the hospital. I swear to God!!!!

Whatever. Itis still stealing.

From Websteris Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913):

Stealing \Steal"ing\, n. 1. The act of taking feloniously the personal property of
another without his consent and knowledge; theft; larceny.

The thing to do if youire tempted to use an unknown network is to figure out who owns it. Get their permission or make a deal to split ISP costs. That may be easier said than done but there are programs available that will display a signal strength of a given base station. It should be possible to narrow it down enough to knock on doors. Chances are, the person will be grateful for your security tipoff not to mention the prospect of a reduction in ISP costs.

If youire new to wireless networking, and you want your network to stay private, the first thing you should do is activate WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). This will only allow people with the correct password to join your network.

However, if you have more than enough bandwidth for your purposes, why not seek out other wireless users near you to help reduce your internet costs? Or even make your network available for free. There are organizations in many larger cities, like nycwireless, that are working to bring free wireless access points together.

If youire interested in joining the free wireless community you can find more information at or a worldwide list of communities at Personal Telco.