using a neighbor's wireless network

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by gernb, Jul 31, 2004.

  1. gernb macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2002
    Just curious...visiting a friend for the week who does not have broadband, but I booted up my powerbook and airport found a network to join that does not require a password.

    Two questions:

    1.) Can who ever the network belongs to tell that I'm connected?

    2.) Can the person running the network potentially view the data I'm transfering (e-mail, account passwords, credit card numbers, etc.)?

    In short, is there a downside to using someone else's WiFi hotspot?

    I'm not paronoid...just curious.

    Thanks for any insight.
  2. w00tmaster macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2004
    If they run a packet sniffer, they can see everything that goes through the network. More often than not, anyone who sets up an open network(ie not encrypted) probably doesn't know enough to run a packet sniffer, but then again, it could just be a trap.
    If you want your data to be secure, set up an SSH account on your computer at home, and log into that. Everything will be encrypted so they will not be able to read it.
  3. hmmfe macrumors regular

    Feb 28, 2003
    Short answer to both questions is Yes.

    Realistically, if this person cannot secure their network, I doubt they would be able to sniff your packets and decode.

    If you are going to "steal" someone's broadband connection, I would think you'd want to encrypt at least your password.
  4. jared_kipe macrumors 68030


    Dec 8, 2003
    SSH... yeah thats a neat trick, but only if your neighbor in some wicked smart geek. Probably the only way you get caught is sapping up too much bandwidth, people only look for causes when they have a problem.
  5. neoelectronaut macrumors 68030


    Dec 3, 2003
    Southeastern Louisiana
    Out of goodwill, I think you should try to find the person that is running the wireless network and kinda ask him/her if you can use it before you just use it all willy-nilly. I mean, it is stealing something that they pay for, mind you.
  6. broken_keyboard macrumors 65816


    Apr 19, 2004
    Secret Moon base
    #6 shouldn't really use someone else's broadband. If they are paying by volume you may be costing them $
  7. MikeLaRiviere macrumors regular

    May 25, 2004
    They can always see you on their router's DHCP client table. Whenever I'm feeling particularly paranoid at the moment, or perhaps if my bandwidth seems lower than usual, I'll definitely check the DHCP client table.

    I've run my network without encryption to make it easier for my family to connect, but I now have it set to encrypt. I can't imagine the neighbors are going to take your passwords or anything, but then again, why don't you just ask them? It's common courtesy for them not to steal your information (provided they have the ability), so you can return the favor by alerting them to what you are doing. Perhaps, in return, you can offer to secure their network.

    Mike LaRiviere
  8. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Yeah, tell them that in exchange for having stole their bandwidth, you'll secure their network. :)

    Or maybe it's better to do it before you use it. Ask if you can use it for a while. Say you noticed that you could use their wireless network from your friend's house, and that it would be great to use wireless internet, but you thought to ask first. Then offer to secure their network.

    Personally, I would't mind one bit if you did that. I don't know about your country (wherever that is) but in Canada, most people who use cable internet have either a 10GB or 30GB limit per month. To me, that's almost unlimited. In Australia, most people pay for the amount they use, say 1GB of internet usage per month for $X dollars, so it would be wrong to use their internet. I don't know how it works in the US or UK.
  9. chrisblore macrumors regular

    May 10, 2004
    Essex, UK
    Mostly in the UK one just pays a set monthly fee to use broadband internet but these days BT (the telecoms operator and broadband access wholesaler) has also implemented a package that simply includes ~ 30GB of transfer per month and then an overage fee is charged at the end of the month for any excess bandwidth used. The majority of connections are still billed a single fee for unlimited usage, although this is often extortionately high when compared to the prices in other countries for much faster internet access :mad: . A Swedish farmer has probably got a faster wireless connection on his tractor than someone like me living in a large town in England where we are still mostly stuck on 512kbps ADSL!
  10. papersushi macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2003
    You can always say you have no idea how computer or Internet works if you get caught. I was told by Apple that my laptop is capable of Internet browsing. So I turned on the computer, followed the menu with my PowerBook, launch Safari, then I am online. Isn't that how it is supposed to work, Mr. Officer?
  11. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Well that's the same way it's done in Canada. Again, I think 30GB is quite high already. We pay around $40 Canadian per month, or around 16 quid for this service, and it's blazing fast! :p Its funny, because I used to live in London with a bunch of students my age, but I never had internet access while I was there. Whenever we were desperate to use the net, we just connected a computer to a phone line and payed for the internet by the minute. :D We weren't rich kids, so that was good enough. Actually, I never did it myself. I would just pay £1 for an hour of internet at a cafe.
  12. Calvinatir macrumors 6502


    Nov 8, 2003
    It is actually legal to use their internet connection. It is on your property and unsecured. I used my neighbor's wifi for the 2 weeks i had before i the cable man came when i moved here. It was nice because i couldn't make an appointment for 2 weeks to get broadband installed!
  13. AssassinOfGates macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2002
    A cardboard box.
    I use the neighbor's network whenever my roommates bog down the network with bittorrent. The neighbors deserve it, seeing as how they never rtbm. No encryption, no administrator password (your ports are MINE), no SSID change. On top of that, it was on the same channel as our existing network, causing us lots of problems until we changed ours. I might just get a cantenna to improve the leeching even more when I have to ^_^
  14. superbovine macrumors 68030


    Nov 7, 2003
    that is like saying that a girl deserves to get rapped.
  15. superbovine macrumors 68030


    Nov 7, 2003
    since is stealing internet is legal simply because the radio signal is own your property? first off your have cable, electricity, and telephone wires going to your house through your property. all illegal to steal. a better example is sat tv, i.e. direct tv or dish network. it is illegal in the US to steal those services.

    identifying the presence of a wireless network may not be a
    criminal violation, however, there may be criminal violations if the
    network is actually accessed including theft of services, interception
    of communications, misuse of computing resources, up to and including
    violations of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Statute, Theft of
    Trade Secrets, and other federal violations.
    At this point, I am not
    aware of any malicious activity that has been reported to the FBI here
    in Pittsburgh, however, you are cautioned regarding this activity if
    you have implemented a wireless network in your business. You are
    also highly encouraged to implement appropriate wireless security
    practices to protect your information assets,

    its not an absolute fact from this memo that it is illegal, but i imagine a the DA or US attorney office could come with some charges to stick. oh yeah, note the use of Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Statue as you will be a felon. A cable company or phone company could actually press charges for stealing their services as well. Just giving you the info. I didn't want you to think you in the free and clear on this one.
  16. gernb thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2002
    thanks for the thoughts everyone.

    obviously some anti-warchalking voices in the crowd. which is fine...i can see the reasoning behind that.

    the question is not one of long-term use...i'm just here for the week and trying to stay on top of some freelance projects.

    not sure how to use SSH, or if it's really necessary in this case. any links on that?
  17. lbodnar macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2004
    No, not always.

    It is enough to find out which segment the WiFi access point is on (say 10.0.0.* or 192.255.*.* etc) which is initially easiest done with DHCP but after that you can just assign yourself fixed IP from that segment (or even easier just keep the one you have been given once). After that any connection/disconnection will not involve DHCP server at all. Since most home networks have stable configuration, reassignment of their IP addresses (and subsequent conflict with your fixed one) is very unlikely.

    After DHCP lease has expired (few days) or router reboot, DHCP will not have your MAC in the entry table anymore.

    I am discouraging using others' resources but just want to point out the correct technical details.

    However some routers keep logs of any WiFi clients attached. Given MAC address one can easily find the make and model of the laptop and maybe even track down the serial number of the laptop than find out via the distribution chain who it has been sold to etc.

    However some WiFi cards allow to reprogram their MAC address. Endless loop... :eek:
  18. tliptak macrumors regular

    Aug 20, 2002
    I doubt you have to worry much. Setting up a sniffer is pretty hard. I've tried it and its not something your average user is gunna do. Even better just ask them but if you don't I wouldn't worry about it. Then again my network is open heh
  19. lbodnar macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2004
    Electromagnetic waves are on your property but the access point and related infrastructure is on theirs.

    Waves are just transport. I still will be responsible if I verbally abuse you using free soundwaves while sitting in my back garden or say set you on fire using huge concave mirror from my rooftop. Same waves, just shorter wavelength. :D
  20. superbovine macrumors 68030


    Nov 7, 2003
    if you read the link in the previous post, it clearer states warchalking is not illegal, but the use of the resources is. the reality is you probably will never get caught, but if you every do, i am telling you your consequences. this is regardless of short term or long term use. you are trying rationalize something that is illegal by saying, i only do it for a short time.

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