06 July 2007

Wardriving Story Followup

The story of a Florida man arrested for poaching wireless internet service was updated slightly.

Richard Dinon called the cops, but he's no hero. Benjamin Smith III got arrested, but he's no martyr.

Dinon and Smith crossed paths in April, when Smith was parked outside Dinon's St. Petersburg home for several hours using his notebook computer.

Dinon approached Smith's SUV twice, Smith twice closed the computer. But he didn't leave, so Dinon called the police. Smith was arrested, accused of unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony.

The allegation? Smith was using Dinon's Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) network. The problem? Dinon intentionally had left the network unsecured. . . .

Smith was charged under Chapter 815.06 of the Florida statutes available at www.leg.state.fl.us/) Among other things, the computer crimes law talks about someone accessing a computer network without authorization.

Since Dinon left his network open, and Wi-Fi is a short-range radio signal, any computer with a wireless network card could access it. Was authorization implied because it was an unprotected signal? The lawyers and courts will have to decide that one.

The state law also addresses what someone does if they gain unauthorized access, including damaging data or "devising or executing any scheme or artifice to defraud or obtain property ...."

We don't know what Smith was doing with his computer, but we do know he has a criminal record going back to 1984 for a variety of drug offenses. That doesn't mean he's guilty here. But he also doesn't appear to be the best poster child for Wi-Fi freedom.

The federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is also vague, according to an excellent Cnet story on the topic (news.com, do a keyword search for "mooching").

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