If you are one of the millions of UK internet users, that think because one of their neighbours has an unsecured wifi connections, then they can get free internet access. Then you’d better watch out.
Under the 2003 Communications Act it is illegal to use another person’s service provider to access the Internet. The offence, carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail or a fine.
Often refered to as “piggy backing” or “cyber squatting”, using open wifi networks illegally is quite common, and up until now there have been few if any prosecutions of offenders. But on sunday 17th Feb the police were called to a home in Tweedmouth, Berwick, Northumberland, after a woman had reported two men behaving suspiciously outside her home. The two men were arrested on suspicion of allegedly logging on to another person’s internet connection illegally.
Both men were believed to have been checking their emails using the womans wireless broadband and have been released on bail pending further enquiries.
Berwick Neighbourhood Inspector Sharon Stavers said “This is a very unusual offence and it appears the two men were doing nothing more sinister than checking their emails and getting some time on the internet for free. However, this is an offence and people pay good money to have the internet in their homes.”
If you have an unsecured open wifi connection, then my advice would be to secure it as quickly as possible, using the highest form of protection you can, and not to publish the connection unless you have to.
If you need access to wifi away from home then, my suggestion would be to use one of the thousands of legitimate “hotspots” across the country. There are now free hotspots, on many trains, cafes, and hotels. Fast food restaurant McDonald’s recently announced that its 1,200 UK outlets would soon get free wireless internet access, for customers.