This story of a Florida man arrested for using an open WiFi router has been making the rounds, and I've been holding off on posting about it because on the face of it, it seems completely absurd.
And yet, if I were charged with a third-degree felony, I might take it more seriously.
Articles like this one go on and on about how unsecured wireless networks can be used by all sorts of criminals and pedophiles. All of that is probably true, but they can also be used by people like you and me to check our email, get our latest baseball scores, or check our blogs for new comments. Because WiFi is so useful, many people set up access points without passwords as a courtesy: to build a better wireless community. On such systems, nobody needs authorization: they just use DHCP to request a new IP and the gateway information , et voila!
This guy was using a wifi connection from the street. As far as anyone can tell, he wasn't sending email threats, or engaging in trafficking of kiddy porn, or doing anything at all. He was just using a WiFi connection that someone (either through carelessness or largess) left open and accessible to passers by. If anyone is guilty of anything, it would probably be the homeowner who is breaking his customer usage agreement by providing passers by with free internet.
Honestly, just how stupid have we become? Don't our police have anything better to do? If this guy really objected to having a guy use his WiFi, why not just add a password? The guy would almost certainly take it as a hint that he shouldn't use the connection and would move on.
Eesh. And I thought I was having a bad week.
Is it al-Qaida? Response to the G8 summit? Craziness over the Olympic announcement? Who knows, but it isn't nice, that's for sure.
Update: Flickr photo pool.
Addendum: The link above is dead (shame on you Yahoo! news for not maintaining permanent links). The final death toll reported was 52, and two years later, the case is still active. Wikipedia maintains a page about the incident which seems pretty comprehensive.