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QOTD: Have You Ever Stolen Someone's WiFi?

By , Marcus Yam, Tuan Nguyen - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 162 comments

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who would piggyback on someone else’s Wi-Fi and those who lie about whether or not they would piggy back on someone else’s Wi-Fi.


We’ve all done it, so this is less of a “have you?” and more of an opportunity to tell your stories about it. “Stealing” WiFi (stealing is such a harsh word) is a sticky subject, depending on the person.

The issue of WiFi hopping, or WiFi leeching, or whatever you want to call it, is up in the air right now. However, law makers are taking the issue seriously. In the summer of 2005, a man was arrested for leeching off a neighbor's WiFi. Sitting outside the house in a vehicle, Benjamin Smith III used his neighbor's private WiFi signal.

One of the most important things to do as soon as setting up a wireless access point or router is to secure it, but many people don't.

Jane: I’ve only ever done it when I absolutely had to and I would never use it for anything other than checking email etc. Strictly no downloading. I do have some good stories from others, though. Over a period of a couple of weeks, my brother and his girlfriend noticed that their net conection was getting sluggish. One day the SSID and key changed. They changed the password and SSID again, and switched the router's SSID to just say, "Borrowing - fine, Changing - not" just to be clear. A few days later they got a physical letter to their house from an American lad who had been wardriving their WiFi. He was asking them to change the details back because he couldn’t afford his own internet and their WiFi was the only way he could talk to/contact his family. I sympathized with him, but why change the SSID and key? Stupid move.

Marcus: First of all, people should never leave their WiFi connections unprotected. While I’m all for sharing with neighbors, bandwidth caps imposed by ISPs pretty make make every bit and byte a limited resource. That said, of course I’ve hopped onto someone else’s WiFi – but it was only at a time of need when I didn’t have internet of my own, and it was a godsend. I’ve also never tried to crack anyone’s encrypted connection either. I think of open WiFi as like being those ‘penny-helper’ dishes at cash checkouts. I’d take a few to round up your payment to a more convenient number, but I’d never dump the entire thing over the counter to help pay for a six-pack.

Tuan: During times of desperation, like waiting for my ISP to come by and setup my net connection, yes. Some people leave both their computer unsecured as well as their router unsecured. Plenty of times I've seen people leave the router's default login and password. What's funny is, sometimes I find some residential routers so overloaded with leechers. This is easy to see if someone's left their login credentials open. Routers all have a client list, which you can take a look at to see what's connected. If you don't feel a WiFi password is secure enough, you can also turn on your unit's MAC address filtering feature. This will add an extra layer of security.

The question of the day is: Have you ever stolen someone's WiFi signal?

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Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    copenhagenlc , May 29, 2009 12:55 AM
    Steal is such a harsh word, more like borrowed =)
  • 20 Hide
    japnoise99 , May 29, 2009 1:00 AM
    Lets just say P2P stuff is done at the neighbors house LOL!
  • 19 Hide
    B-Unit , May 29, 2009 1:13 AM
    leafblower29Well I tried to... but they were all protected.

    Dont let that slow you down. The answer you seek lies on this very site...
Other Comments
    Display all 162 comments.
  • 25 Hide
    copenhagenlc , May 29, 2009 12:55 AM
    Steal is such a harsh word, more like borrowed =)
  • 15 Hide
    Coolio_alert , May 29, 2009 12:57 AM
    Yes :) 
  • 20 Hide
    japnoise99 , May 29, 2009 1:00 AM
    Lets just say P2P stuff is done at the neighbors house LOL!
  • 3 Hide
    secolliyn , May 29, 2009 1:01 AM
    i have never been on anyone's wifi other than mine and starbux of witch i have a wireless plan that it's included so ya no never have
  • 4 Hide
    bige420 , May 29, 2009 1:01 AM
    I'm the one that people steal from.
  • 0 Hide
    leafblower29 , May 29, 2009 1:02 AM
    Well I tried to... but they were all protected.
  • 19 Hide
    B-Unit , May 29, 2009 1:13 AM
    leafblower29Well I tried to... but they were all protected.

    Dont let that slow you down. The answer you seek lies on this very site...
  • 4 Hide
    erafael , May 29, 2009 1:14 AM
    For non protected accounts - a couple of times:) 
  • 10 Hide
    afrobacon , May 29, 2009 1:16 AM
    How do you think I'm posting this?

    I have a moral code though, I never borrow unprotected wifi. A bit backwards, but it gives me a robinhood feeling inside. :) 
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , May 29, 2009 1:20 AM
    I am doing it now. I actually contacted the person who "owns" this UNSECURE wifi system. Offered this person a fee AND offered him a brand new "G" wireless router to replace his old "B" version. He "freaked out"
    shut the system off for 4 days. It's back on. He never called me back. So I use it as it is UNSECURED and I use it for routine surfing and nothing else. Being without a job and very limited income it beats going to the library or whatever venue for free wifi. IF you DON't SECURE it, oh well!
    I am up high and at any given time I "see" 14 different networks. At any given time at least 3 - 4 are UNSECURE..2 - 3 others are using factory defaults for security.. Some use really colorful network names to insult
    you. Broadcasting UNSECURED it is FREE to me.
  • 6 Hide
    JMcEntegart , May 29, 2009 1:22 AM
    afrobaconHow do you think I'm posting this?I have a moral code though, I never borrow unprotected wifi. A bit backwards, but it gives me a robinhood feeling inside.


    Aww, that's sweet in a mean sort of way.
  • 5 Hide
    brother shrike , May 29, 2009 1:24 AM
    For the longest time, my friend had dial-up, but his neighbors had Fios. 7 minutes to download a full DVD linux distro from some server at MIT (we live near boston). The best part was that they knew, and they were cool with it.

    As for the question: of course! who hasn't?
  • 3 Hide
    The_Blood_Raven , May 29, 2009 1:24 AM
    I let some of my neighbors "borrow" my WiFi from time to time. I take off the protection when no one is using our internet because I know that atleast one of my neighbors will jump at the opportunity and I'm ok with that.
  • 9 Hide
    PanSola , May 29, 2009 1:25 AM
    If the WiFi connection is not encrypted, then I consider the owner to be sharing it with the public, and I have made use of such generosities in the past.

    If the WiFi connection is encrypted, then I have never tried broken in and use the connection that is meant to be private.

    I would argue only the latter definition is "stealing", and I have never stolen in the latter sense.
  • 4 Hide
    seanf78 , May 29, 2009 1:30 AM
    "unsecured" is synonymous with "public".
  • 0 Hide
    3p0ch , May 29, 2009 1:30 AM
    When we lived in the townhouse we couldn't connect to our own because so many people were on it so we used someone else's. 30 townhouses in 1 little area and everybody had the same service from the same company so it really didn't matter
  • 0 Hide
    shadowryche , May 29, 2009 1:31 AM
    Live close to a fair grounds? You'd be shocked how many of them carni's have laptops and will snag up what ever signal they can get. I know, I used to be one. Many how ever will resort to a near by Krystal's or McDonald's, or anything else that might provide free WiFi. Infact there are a number of fair grounds out there now that have WiFi set up for those staying on the grounds.
  • 4 Hide
    tester3000 , May 29, 2009 1:35 AM
    If it's unsecured, that means it's public. If you want it to be private then secure the goddamn thing with a half decent password. Where ever i go, there's always one or 2 unsecured routers running. So.. don't mind if i do.
  • -1 Hide
    maigo , May 29, 2009 1:36 AM
    Yes... and does anyone know how to break into a linksys nas? lol
  • 2 Hide
    SirCrono , May 29, 2009 1:49 AM
    No, I've never have, and I keep my connection as secure as I can (WPA and MAC filetring currently), I also check the client list every once in a while just to check if someone is piggybacking off me.

    I once saw a connection that shouldn't be there and ban it, it turned out my router lists all clients in one list and not just the wireless ones, so I banned my brother's PC, it took me like an hour to figure out what was happening to his connection.
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