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There are several legal and ethical considerations, as well as security and performance reasons, all leading to the conclusion that one should not connect to a neighbor's network without permission.

In most jurisdictions, when you access a network or use a service (bandwidth, for example) belonging to another, you are committing a criminal act. In addition to laws governing computer-related crimes, you may also run afoul of laws concerning theft of utility services. While one can reasonably argue that these laws were often written to prevent corporate espionage and vandalism, that argument is one that would be made in court -- after an arrest and/or confiscation of your equipment.

Although there are some areas where the laws have not caught up to the technology, it is difficult to morally justify consuming someone else's internet service without permission. When criminal laws do not apply, it does not mean that civil laws or claims cannot result. And if the legal system can be avoided, it hardly keeps the peace of the neighborhood when one is found intruding on the property, services, and privacy of another.

An unsecure network probably means that other security precautions are lax. You can safely assume that most wireless networks are unencrypted due to the owner's unintentional failure to secure the network. When you access a home network, all of the machines (yours and theirs) are on the LAN side -- the more trusted side -- of the owner's firewall. As you may know, there is less protection against virus infection or unauthorized access between machines on the same network segment. You may find your computer under attack from a bug they caught earlier!

The performance of wireless networks depends on the ability to avoid collisions -- the simultaneous transmission of two or more network devices. Connecting to a wireless network usually means directly accessing only the Access Point or wireless router. When you use a neighbor's connection, you will likely be the most distant station on the wireless network. Your station may not be "visible" to the other stations on the network; as a result, your hidden station may transmit simultaneously with another station on the network. This interference will reduce the performance of the overall network.

Because of all of these reasons -- legal, moral, security, and performance -- it is generally inadvisable to use a neighbor's network without permission.

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by funchords See Profile edited by adsldude See Profile
last modified: 2005-08-28 09:10:41