Have you ever been someplace besides your home or office with the old laptop in hand and attempted to “sniff out” a WiFi access so you can get online? A hotel, a coffee shop, the doctor’s office, even the airport. I know I have (I didn’t just admit to that did I?). Well you better be careful in the future because apparently stealing tapping into a WiFi connection that you do not have authorization to do so can get you arrested.
Such is the case for Sam Peterson, a Michigan man who was arrested after he was caught repeatedly stealing WiFi from a cafe. Mr. Peterson was arrested under a Michigan law barring access to anyone else’s network without authorization. The complaint reasons that since the cafe’s WiFi network was reserved for (paying) customers and Peterson never came into the cafe, he was essentially piggybacking off of the open network without authorization.
From the original story:
The arrest came about because Peterson apparently showed up to the Union Street Cafe to use its free WiFi from the comfort of his car, and he did so every single day. A police officer grew suspicious of Peterson and eventually questioned him as to what he was up to. Peterson, not realizing that what he was doing was (at least) ethically questionable, told the officer exactly what he was doing. “I knew that the Union Street had WiFi. I just went down and checked my e-mail and didn’t see a problem with that,” Peterson told a reporter.
Peterson’s actions could result in a five-year felony and a $10,000 fine. Ouch! Lucky for Peterson, prosecutors don’t plan on making an example of him. Instead he will have to pay a $400 fine and complete 40 hours of community service. I wonder if the amount of Internet access he stole borrowed comes close to the fine and hours he has to put in?
So the next time you decide to tap into someone else’s WiFi connection, better check and see what the law says about it.