Use Open WiFi – Go to Jail
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Florida, the state known for not being able to keep pants on their spammers, has become what is believed to be the first state in the nation to prosecute someone for using someone else’s open wifi.

Mind you, there is no evidence that Benjamin Smith III did anything else illegal while accessing the Internet through Richard Dinon’s unsecured open wireless access point in a residential neighborhood of St. Petersburg, Florida. It appears that he is guilt of – only – using that open wifi to get out to the Internet. Which is “unauthorized access of a computer network”. Which is a third-degree felony in Florida.


Of course, we first reported this very incident back when it first happened, when Mr. Smith first was apprehended for wardriving outside the Florida veterinarian’s home. What’s news now is that Florida is actually going forward with the prosecution.

Now, we’re not saying that what Smith did was right. But it’s ironic that when so many spammers spew millions of pieces of spam a day in their own version of “unauthorized access of a computer network” in Florida, the one poor schmuck who gets nailed there is the schmuck who parked outside someone’s home and used their open wifi access point to – who knows what. Maybe to search Google to find the address for which he was looking, maybe to send an instant message to his girlfriend to let her know that he’d be late for dinner (he just didn’t realize at the time just how late he’d end up being!) Again, we don’t know what he was doing, but we do know that there are no allegations that he was doing anything otherwise illegal, other than the unauthorized access.

But our real point is this: how many of you have used someone’s open wifi access point without express permission? For goodness sake, sales of the Canary wifi finder, and similar products designed to find open wireless access, have never been better!

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Perhaps more importantly, how many of you will use someone’s open wifi access point without their express permission now, after reading this?

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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Use Open WiFi - Go to Jail
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Use Open WiFi - Go to Jail
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Florida, the state known for not being able to keep pants on their spammers, has become what is believed to be the first state in the nation to prosecute someone for using someone else's open wifi.
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17 thoughts on “Use Open WiFi – Go to Jail
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  1. A vast majority of router manufacturer’s have set their products firmware to be left open for easy setup and configuration. Most of them have provided the end user with a configuration utility (GUI) to assist the end user in properly securing and configuring their new device with their Internet Service Provider (ISP). If the end user decided that it wasn’t in his/her best interests or time to enter the appropriate information in the GUI fields then it’s clearly acknowledged to anyone within the radius of the property that they either don’t mind or really don’t have patience in their new device. Now that being said, any government shouldn’t present any sort of law against anyone who has been provided free internet access via an open WIFI network. If that person somehow obtain confidential information within that network or computers and used it against the end user then they shall be prosecuted to fullest extent of the law. But the sad thing it’s not possible to obtain valuable evidence by someone who connected annonymously to an unsecured network with internet access. The law should some sort go after the manufacturers in provided hard cache program on the routers firmware that will keep a debug log for 30 to 60 days. That will definitely open a few law officers eyes and views on how to crack down on criminal activities via wardiving or open access control. By having this such implementation would definitely increase evidence for non-novice users accessing open networks. For sake you have an network engineer or programmer like me who has the understanding of technology and the security flaws that come within it. I would be able to bypass anysort of mac filtering or monitoring, device ID, Cookies, etc.. by providing that unit with a spoofed MAC Address and increase the security within mobile device.

    Technology Rule To Live By:

    …You secure
    They Unsecure
    …You secure to protect
    They unsecure to have access

    It’s an ongoing process that will never stop. What we need to do is to learn the risks and prevent access to non-novice users.

    If you have any questions, Please feel to contact me directly: 1-888-883-8693
    Website: www.ipclearnetworks.com
    Email: support@ipclearnetworks.com

  2. I personally don’t see how this should be seen as a crime. If your going to have a wireless network setup and not know how to secure it… it is your own fault for others accessing your internet. How the hell does someone not know how to secure their network but knows someone else is connected to their network… If you can access your router to see who is in your client list how hard is it to select the security option and set a password… dont bitch about someone taking your car if your going to leave the keys in it… its your own damn fault… secure it or give it away..

  3. so if I have a bad lock on my door you can still walk into my house. If i don’t get the best lock? how about windows, can I open them in nice weather, or is that just asking for it?

    Felony is a bit harsh tho

    Personally I think having semi open wifi would be cool all around, restricted bandwidth firewalled from your network. If everyone had it, it would really make for a low cost wireless ‘village’

  4. People can’t we all get along. He committed the crime now he has to do the time. Barretta said this in his tv show. No matter if he took a line up to the man house and plugged it in a jack or sat in front of his house for hours, he is guilty. Next time learn the LAW of the land or you too will be in BIG trouble. Have a nice day!

  5. I think it’s a joke they even did this. How can you charge someone for accessing an open Network? They need to charge the person with the open network NOT the person accessing it. I’d like to see how this ends up.

  6. Stealing is stealing, but it requires intent. But a felony for using a wifi network. I set my laptop up in my truck when I travel. If I hit a wifi stop on a break, I check weather, traffic and road reports. Many times I don’t know if this is a free service provided by the rest stop, coffee stop or whomever. If you don’t secure your network, it’s your problem. I would view if very differently if he hacked into the network!
    (BTW – My laptop also auto connects to unsecure networks.)

  7. my notebook has a Wi-Fi finder that comes on when I power up. It’s always looking to connect. In Florida it’d have me committing felonies constantly.

  8. What some of the people who wrote in do not understand is that this casual user/surfer is being accused of a *felony*. This is not a silly misdemeanor or a simple fine. If this person is found guilty, he will be a convicted *felon*.

    I was recently in Atlanta and was staying with some Luddites with no Internet. I had to check my e-mail. What was I to do? I found a network two houses down. The owner caught me , but said it was OK. According to Florida’s laws, *any* access to another person’s WiFi network is a felony. That would include a walk through the local mall.

    Do not be too quick to judge this poor guy. He is in for a hellish ride through the legal system. The experience will scar him for the rest of his life.

  9. It’s a subscribed service. Every month I have a bunch of bills that I pay: water, cable/internet, gas, electric, etc. I’ve been been any kind of law student or law enforcement person, I’m just an average Joe in the United States trying to make a living. Last I knew, I thought it was illegal for any of those paid and subscribed services to be borrowed by any of my neighbors. Nobody runs a plumbing line, or a long electrical extension cord from my house, wired or not, because _I_ pay for the services, not them. Of course the most common is that people will (un)willingly share cable television/internet lines between residences. My local cable company actually checks and does audits to prevent this activity (thus ensuring they get paid for each person/residence using the service). I’m not implying that any/all service providers do this same practice, and especially wirelessly, it would be impossible. I maintain a secure wireless net at home. I installed it myself so it is my resposibilty to maintain it myself. There is nothing that can’t be done without knowledge obtained by reading the included instruction manual, or help files provided with the hardware. I’m not a technician with a soldering iron replacing some voltage rectifiers inside the case of my wireless router. (I have changed my own oil in my car, byt my car’s instruction manual doesn’t include directions for me to recharge my air conditioning) RE: ED… provide the technology with instruction to use it safely and properly. If it BREAKS or fails to function properly, then take your car to a mechanic or replace it. If you leave the keys in your car with the windows down, shame on you. It’s not right that I take your car (internet service) just don’t make it easy for me to do so.

  10. Leaving your WiFi open isn’t like leaving the door to your house open, it’s like putting your belongings on your front yard with a sign that says “free to a good home”.

  11. RE: Even if i let the door of my hous open, nobody is allowed to walk in and take what he wants.

    LOCK YOUR DOOR!

  12. One of the missing pieces – he was sitting in front of the house for well over an hour with the laptop surfing (or whatever) on the Wi-Fi and the Wi-Fi owner spotted him. The man confessed to conecting to the Wi-Fi when arrested by the Police. Not much technological savvy need for that.

    Right or wrong, Chapter 815.06(1)(a) of Florida Statutes makes it a felony to: willfully, knowingly, and without authorization: Accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network. He didn’t have authorization and he accessed the network. If I leave my front door open, that does NOT give you permission to come into my house and ‘access’ the contents. Should the Wi-Fi have been secured – yes. Then again, there are a lot of people that just can’t figure out how.

    BTW, orgoguy, do you repair your automobile? NO?!? I guess we should take that complex technology away from YOU.

  13. I find it a bit strange that the Wi-Fi owner is not savvy enough to lock down his network, but somewhow knew that someone else was using it. Either there are some details missing, or this was a set up.

  14. Reading your article, i can not agree to Aunties sight. Why? For example, my internet access is limited for 600 MB traffic. After this I have to pay 7 Euro-Cents for each 1MB. So if anyone is loading down some what-ever-it-is he/she simply is stealing my money! Even if i let the door of my hous open, nobody is allowed to walk in and take what he wants. (No, neither my door nor my WLAN are really open)
    This is not a thing which can be easily/lightheartedly excused.
    I think Florida is right, this is not a thing which can be easily excused and I would find it a good thing to have a similar law here in Austria.

  15. I say you don’t secure your network you’re and idiot and you deserve for the whole neighborhood to suck up your speed. Too much of this blaming and going after the shrewd (the wifi user) instead of making the stupid one (wifi owner) actually learn something and be responsible for their netowrk. Of course, this is Florida whose citizens can’t successfully punch a hole in a card and whose gov’t can’t keep dibs on sex offenders and let them live across the street from and work at Jr high schools for example thus leading to what 3 murders of children in 18 months? Come on FL legislature, get with the program. I know passing and enforcing ignorant laws gets you a good paycheck, but ask yourself what good comes of passing/enforcing this on a small time home user who did NOTHING malicious except exploit the ignorance of somone who should have such complex technology taken away from him as he can’t figure out how to use it properly. Jeez.

  16. Florida apparently wants to show the rest of the nation what “tough on crime” really looks like. Not a pretty picture, is it?

  17. I am second level tech support/customer relations for one of biggest (if not the biggest) computer companies in the world. It is not that unusual for our front line technical support agents to receive calls from police officers in their police vehicles who are parked in the normal spot that they have found they can access the internet and do their reports mid-way through their shift; but they have suddenly found that for some reason on that particular day the can no longer access the internet and they want our agents to fix it for them. By and large, they don’t seem to understand that even if the wifi owner has not locked his system down and it is actually a setting on the notebook that is the issue; we are still not going to help them.

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