Florida Man Nabbed For Wireless Net Theft

    July 8, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

St. Petersburg police charge a 41 year-old man with unauthorized access to a computer network.

The incident began when a Florida resident took his trash out, and noticed Benjamin Smith III sitting in a parked vehicle quickly close a laptop computer. The resident, Richard Dinon, later noticed strange icons on his home computer.

He called police, who questioned Mr. Smith about the accusation. After conferring with legal counsel, the police charged Mr. Smith under a broad third-degree felony statute.

Prosecutors could request punishment varying from probation to five years in prison. That request will depend on the results of the investigation into the incident. Using the connection for simple web surfing would be a less serious abuse than if the accused were committing identity theft or cracking another system remotely.

The incident appears to be the first time someone in the US has been charged with trespassing on someone else’s wireless Internet connection. Some of the fault does rest with Mr. Dinon, who apparently did not have his connection properly secured against foreign usage.

Finding an available wireless connection is almost trivial to do. Some people try and do this by “wardriving,” where they drive around with a laptop computer and see if they hit an open connection.

Users of wireless routers should ensure they have enabled the various security options available. Information on doing so should be included with the documentation for a router.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.