What's Wrong With Grabbing Someone Else's Wireless Connection?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 1:58pm

Have you ever "borrowed" wireless internet from an unsecured network?

Whether we've meant to or not, most of us have done this at one time or another. Simply hopping online while using a mobile device in public could connect you to a network without you even realizing it. The real moral question, however, relates to the intentional usage of a neighbor's wireless connection. Is it okay for you to do this, or should you just suck it up and buy your own services from the best internet provider in town?

In this post we will consider what could go wrong when grabbing someone else's internet, and why you should pay for your own.

‘Borrowing’ Someone Else's Internet - What Could Go Wrong?
If you think that intentionally and regularly grabbing onto someone else's Wi-Fi is no big deal, guess again. It turns out that quite a bit could go wrong by doing this, ranging from mild inconveniences to serious consequences. Here's a closer look at a few of the many drawbacks involved with using an unauthorized wireless network.

  • Bad Blood - It's not that difficult for your neighbors to figure out that you're stealing their internet. Performing a quick check of the router device list or a simple router light inspection will make it evident that someone on the block is being a parasite and slowing down their bandwidth. In fact, your neighbors can even discover your IP address.

If they figure out that it's you, some significant tension could be created at the next block party. After all, you are mooching off a service that they are paying for. In some cases, you may even be reported to the authorities. 

  • Poor Connectivity - Even if the network that you're tapping into uses the best internet provider, you're not going to enjoy the same services. For the most part, your connection will be weak, which means that the internet will cut out frequently. Not only is this annoying, but if you rely in the internet for school or work, it could create some big problems for completing projects and meeting deadlines.

  • Trouble for the Neighbors - The things that you do while "borrowing" the neighbor's internet could make them liable. For instance, if you've downloaded a song or movie illegally, your neighbors could be blamed. Do you really want that on your conscience? And if they prove they didn’t do it, they will be looking extra hard for those who did.

  • Jail Time and/or Fines - Most states and even the federal government have spoken out against "borrowing" Wi-Fi. On the federal level, Computer Abuse and Fraud Act makes it a crime to gain "unauthorized access" to a computer or website via someone else's router connection. Fortunately, unless you're trying to hack into the Pentagon, these matters will be handled by local law enforcement as opposed to the Feds. But that doesn't mean that you're off the hook, by any means. State governments take the crime seriously as well. In fact, in at least three cases (in Florida, Illinois, and Michigan), Wi-Fi "squatters" have been arrested or fined. It's really not worth the risk.

To Buy or to Borrow? An Obvious Choice
Upon assessing the risks of grabbing someone else's internet, it's clear that the wise choice is to pay for your own services from the best internet provider in your area. Ultimately, you'll enjoy better online services while protecting your own interests.


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