Stealing Wi-Fi

A Florida man was charged with stealing a neighbor’s wi-fi signal.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Police have arrested a man for using someone else’s wireless Internet network in one of the first criminal cases involving this fairly common practice.

Benjamin Smith III, 41, faces a pretrial hearing this month following his April arrest on charges of unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony.

Police say Smith admitted using the Wi-Fi signal from the home of Richard Dinon, who had noticed Smith sitting in an SUV outside Dinon’s house using a laptop computer.

I hope arrests like this don’t become common – I, for one, appreciate it when I’m out and find a free wi-fi signal. Connect, check mail, done. The owner of the wi-fi hasn’t lost anything except maybe a momentary slowdown if he’s using it at the same time.

And heck, many places just give the signal away. Panera Bread Company, Harvest Coffee among others. (But not Minute Maid Park, ptui.)

And if you don’t want somebody using your wi-fi signal, the fix is easy – put a password on it. Presto, problem solved.

If this man has a decent lawyer, they’ll argue it thought it was a neighborly thing to do, offering free wi-fi. It wasn’t stealing – the owner hasn’t lost anything.


8 thoughts on “Stealing Wi-Fi

  1. Who provides the service? Aren’t THEY the ones being stolen from? Same as stealing cable – just because it’s wireless doesn’t mean it’s not stealing.


  2. Not quite the same analogy. If my neighbors taps into my cable, he really should be paying the cable company, so that’s stealing.

    I have a wireless router at home; I paid for it. I can attach as many PC’s and wireless devices as I want. I have mine secured, but that’s my choice. I could make it freely available to my neighbors if I wanted. If somebody walked by and tapped into my wifi, I don’t feel he could be considered stealing – I wouldn’t even know he was doing it. He’s not stealing from my DSL company, either, because I’ve paid for it. And all I have to do to stop him is add a password.

    A better analogy would be if the “thief” watched my cable through my window. Peeping Tom issues aside, is he stealing anything?


  3. Nah, my analogy’s better. “It’s not stealing because I do it” isn’t really a valid argument. Neither is “It’s not stealing if I don’t know it’s been taken”. Neither is “It’s not stealing because it wasn’t nailed down”.

    If you take something not freely offered, it’s stealing. Pretty simple.


  4. You don’t use wi-fi, do you? I can tell.

    If I don’t put a password on it, it’s freely offered. I’m just broadcasting it to anybody within 300 feet.


  5. Well, perhaps the buyer should press charges on usage within his air space, that is from his property line to say, 500′. Anything outside his property lines is really unintended radiation spillover. Hey, perhaps I could charge my neighbor for spillage over my property line.

    Is he stealing? Probably. Is it enforceable? Probably not.

    I think a better idea is that any unencrypted broadcast should be found to be legally “public domain” outside your property lines. Encrypt your systems.


  6. Good job Michael… litigation respective of matters in this regard are true justification why the good Lord gave Texans the option for a right to carry license. A few moons ago, fellow dignified folks would simply opt to take out attorneys and their prosecuting clients for even considering the audacity to tie up our legal system with such overwhelming waste. How about judicial focus on murder, rape and other respectable legal action for a change! Enough said.


  7. Wasn’t there a court case many years ago about being legal to descramble HBO satellite signals that were beamed on your property? Why wouldn’t signals beamed onto public property be treated similarly?


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