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Chief Executive Officer, Security Innovation

“Freeloader” on open WiFi facing jail time

May 23, 20072 mins
Business ContinuityCareersData and Information Security

I read on CNN that a man in Sparta, Michigan is facing jail time for using the Re-Union coffee house’s Wi-Fi connection. The WiFi connection was not protected with any kind of encryption nor did it require authentication. He knew the cafe offered free WiFi to their customers (the big sign in the window kinda gave it away), so he took advantage, even though he didn’t buy coffee there on a regular basis… tsk, tsk. Most days he would drive up a lunch time and check his email via his laptop. No big deal, right? Well, apparently, it is in Michigan.

In fact, not only is that a crime in Michigan, but the punishment for this crime is a whopping $10,000 fine and 5 years in jail. That’s right, this is a 5-year felony in Michigan — yikes!!  Mind you, the store even posted a sign that promoted the FREE WI-FI access (for customers only.)   On a suspicion that a crime was being broken, a policeman did some research and busted the guy on a rarely used 30-year old Michigan law that was updated in 2000 to include wireless networks. Remind me to be on my best behavior next time I’m in Sparta, Michigan!

 This seems like a well-intentioned law gone bad… and to prosecute the guy for it is ludicrous. Sure, he didn’t go in and just buy a cup of coffee, or at least ask the store owner if it was OK (which quite frankly limits the sympathy I can have for him), but  to arrest and prosecute the guy for it? Come on!  

Not to be outdone is Westchester County, NY, where WiFi owners are _required to secure their networks or face a fine. That’s like requiring the unsuspecting victim driving down the street to lock their doors because someone might car-jack them. “Excuse me, sir… but that isn’t a bullet-proof vest you’re wearing. Don’t you know this is a potentially dangerous area? We’re sorry, but we’re going to have to lighten your wallet for that.” Now _that sounds like a crime to me.

Honestly, I can’t figure out which situation is more insane!

Chief Executive Officer, Security Innovation

Ed Adams is a software executive with successful leadership experience in various-sized organizations that serve the IT security and quality assurance industries. As CEO, Mr. Adams applies his security and business skills, as well as his pervasive industry experience in the software quality space, to direct application security experts to help organizations understand the risks in their software systems and develop programs to mitigate those risks. The company has delivered high-quality risk solutions to the most recognizable companies in the world including Microsoft, IBM, Fedex, ING, Sony, Nationwide and HP.