The WiFi bandit – stealing something of no worth

Police in London have arrested and released on bail a man they saw sitting on a wall using a laptop. When questioned, he had admitted he was using the householder’s WiFi network to get connected. There was no suggestion he was attempting to hack into any computer systems or steal identities, so what was his offence?

The police view is that dishonestly obtaining electronic communication services is an offense under Section 125 of the U.K. 2003 Communications Act, while unauthorised access to computer material is a summary offense under Section 1 of the 1990 Computer Misuse Act.

Broadband accounts are permanently connected and typically billed in flat-rate monthly amounts unrelated to the amount of traffic used. It doesn’t seem on the face of it he has deprived the broadband account holder of anything of any monetary worth or deprived him of the use of anything that was his to enjoy.

If anything, it is the broadband account holder who has been foolish in leaving his WiFi unsecured. The risks of a passing stranger innocently using it without your permission to access his own email or whatever is trivial compared with the risks of having your computer hacked and your identity or bank and credit card details stolen.

If people realise how wide-open they are to that kind of criminal activity, maybe they will secure their networks and maybe then some good will come of this curious incident.