None of us can claim with a straight face that we’ve never done anything illegal, be it speeding, drunkenly stealing a shrink-wrapped pickle from a bowling alley or hunting the homeless for sport. But on the whole, we’re upstanding citizens. After all, it’s not like we’re out there breaking the law on a daily basis.
Wanna bet? Because all of the stuff below is illegal in most of, if not all of, the United States. If you live outside the U.S., you need to double check to see if you can get jail time for …
Connecting to Unsecure Wi-Fi Networks
Due to the current popularity of tiny computers and man’s relentless desire to watch nudity absolutely everywhere, Wi-Fi hotspot usage is on the rise. Unfortunately, with that comes the problem of people, knowingly or not, connecting to unsecure wireless networks without permission. It’s not like hacking the freaking Pentagon here — if you’re in public, your computer will automatically look for a signal and, if there’s no security (such as a password) to get online, you can connect to it in seconds. Say you’re on a park bench a block away from Starbucks, but their signal juuust reaches you. So, you log in and check your email.
And by “email” we mean “hardcore dwarf BDSM porn.”
Hell, if they left it unsecured, they probably WANT people to use it, right? And even if not, it’s not like it can get you thrown in prison.
Oh wait … it totally can.
“I told you, all but one of those dwarfs consented!”
What Did I Do?!
Say hello to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it a crime to gain “unauthorized access” to a computer or a website. What does “unauthorized access” actually mean? Nobody knows. But the law says it applies to wireless routers. Luckily, law enforcement has lately become more lenient in enforcing “Wi-Fi squatting” in relation to the CFAA. So they probably won’t bust you for the federal crime of stealing wireless Internet (even though they totally could, if they some day feel like it), but it doesn’t matter, because that’s where your state’s laws kick in.
“Castle Doctrine applies to your home Wi-Fi network, right?”
Almost every state out there has regulations against unlawful access to computers and networks — a third-degree felony that carries with it a prison sentence of at least two years and up to 10 grand in fines. Yes, arrests for stealing Wi-Fi are rare because it’s difficult to catch someone in the act. But don’t go thinking that your Internet habits definitely won’t get you shanked in the prison courtyard someday. We know of at least four cases, from Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Alaska, where people were arrested for using someone else’s wireless Internet.
While ultimately none of them were charged with a felony, one man got slapped with a $400 fine and 40 hours of community service for using the unauthorized Wi-Fi connection … to check his email.
One of these men is guilty of rape. The other was caught playing WoW behind an Arby’s.