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?