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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Don't encrypt your home wireless network?

Be sure to send a shout out every once in a while to the police.

Comments (18)

Does that give the police the right to walk into anyone's home if they leave the door unlocked?


Point taken, but I don't broadcast the fact my front door is unlocked.

I think most of you are unaware of Tricky Dick Nixon's omnibus crime control and safe streets act of 1968. It was the first major attack on constitutional rights by a repugnicant president. One of the more odious features allowed federal law enforcement to enter without knocking or identification. My take on that was if you live in a state that allows you to shoot intruders who break into your house, then the agents who break in and don't ID were fair game so to speak. And there were some pretty bad outcomes. Feds breaking into the wrong house and holding homeowners more or less hostage while trying to coerce confessions.

But back to the topic, security is just common sense.

Front door locked, can I enter?

Probably not, but does that prohibit a cop from using binoculars from across the street to observe the kidnapped victim you have in your back bedroom? I'd say no.

Reminds me of the full body scans in use in the UK airports (where they can 'see' through your clothes to the point of embarrassing you if you are not well endowed).

Basically, technology is a great thing. But each new use of technology has to be determined how it impacts our rights.

I don't pretend to understand these issues, but it appears to me that the shared Limewire folder is more significant than the lack of Wi-Fi encryption. An unprotected wireless network may allow others to use your internet connection, but it doesn't really give access to the contents of your computer, any more than using a cordless phone constitutes a publication of your conversations.

Speaking as a network technician and not a lawyer, that seems about right. The only quibble with the court's analogy in my mind is that it's not just any busy street you've left the free stuff at, but the one right in front of your own house. Another good analogy would be leaving the curtains open on a street-facing window; if you do, you can hardly be surprised if someone looks in to see whatever you might be up to.

Pretty much everything supports some security at this point, even if it's crappy trivially-broken security like WEP. Not making that effort at all on an active transceiver is the next best thing to setting out the free box.

(That said, any notion that gubmint agents might also feel free to break WEP or better should be resisted. WEP may be about as easy to break as a screen door, but it's still a door.)

JK:"Does that give the police the right to walk into anyone's home if they leave the door unlocked?"

ws:Does your door extend beyond your property line like wireless signal?

Open Wifi or not, dont they still have to possess a warrant to use anything they found against them?

Yes, the police still need a search warrant supported by probable cause to enter your residence to search for and seize whatever evidence of a criminal offense is articulated in the warrant.

This guy had an open wireless access point and had his itunes set up to share content on the internal wireless network.

Kind of like watching child porn on your plasma in your livingroom at night with the blinds open. A neighbor walking by sees the illegal content and calls police. The police on the sidewalk can look in, see the contraband and apply for a search warrant.

A well reasoned decision by Judge King.

Although, it really wouldn't have hurt the police officer to get a warrant just to be sure. That's a mighty big risk to take knowing evidence could be thrown out in the future for carelessness.

"I think most of you are unaware of Tricky Dick Nixon's omnibus crime control and safe streets act of 1968."

Nixon didn't take office until 1969. LBJ was president when that law was passed and he signed it into law.


The 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act was not a Nixon thing.

A guy from New York really pushed it. Manny Celler, a House Member from Brooklyn, and then chair of House Judiciary. He was a close friend of that nasty little neo Nazi, Robert Francis Kennedy, then Attorney General and soon to be junior senator from New York.

A bunch of Justice Department lawyers from the "Get Hoffa" squad, Bill Lynch; Bill Ryan; Henry Peterson; Bob Blakey, and one or two others who's names I can't now remember, were the conceptualizers and initial drafters. AS a long time committed civil libertarian, -- yeah, right -- Bobby loved it.

Whoops, brain fart on time ine. Bobby was already Junior Senator from mNew York. He beat Keating in '64. Same guys from Justice - who after the get Hoffa bit formed the nucleus for what became the Criminal Division's Organized Crime Section and OC Strike Forces, stayed at Justice under Nick Katzenbach and Ramsey Clark after Bobby left for the SEnate.

A neighbor walking by sees the illegal content and calls police. The police on the sidewalk can look in, see the contraband and apply for a search warrant.

Now, imagine applying that same logic, but changing the word "sees" to "hears".

Then, imagine applying that same logic to you having a cell phone conversation in your house.

And, imagine it being applied because a neighbor sees you walking by your front window naked early one morning, calls the police, and they come arrest you for indecent exposure.

And of course, this all works unless you turn it around on the police themselves. Google "police begin to arrest for cell phone recordings".

I'm having a hard time trying to figure out how accessing his network and / or systems without permission or a warrant doesn't constitute wire fraud and theft of service.


The guy's wireless signal expands beyond his private property and into the public realm for the taking.

If he has it encrypted, he could expect reasonable privacy. He did not.

If the police had "hacked" his wireless encryption signal, then I would agree that would be unreasonable. But that's not the case.

For those who are not aware, turn off "broadcast SSID" and your signal will not be broadcasted and it must be entered in manually. Put encryption on it too, and you'll be fine from unwanted people mooching off your connection for free internets.

Folks here (maybe the Judge as well) seem to want to conflate two things that, in my mind, are completely different. One is wireless encryption or password protection; the other is file sharing. I can see that opening your files for third party access through Limewire kills any expectation of privacy of the file's contents. After all when you do thgst you make the file available to others on the Internet whether your wireless network is encrypted or not. on the other hand an open wireless network may mean someone can use your Internet connection, which may be not a concern to you (or your ISP). But it doesn't necessarily give anyone access to the content of your computrler or of your communications.

Re: Allan L. | February 12, 2010 4:26 PM

Quite right. The two together are surely equivalent to a box labeled "FREE" filled with stuff and sitting within arm's reach of the sidewalk.

Re: MachineShedFred | February 12, 2010 9:38 AM

It's a little tricky to think about, because our customary analogies break down a bit with ephemeral invisible stuff like wireless signals.

But let's recall here that we're taking about radio, which is just another part of that EM spectrum which includes light. So let's say I stand in my yard and shine a flashlight out onto the street at night. I own the flashlight, but I do not own the light that makes a spot on the road bright. Conversely, let's say you're driving and your headlights shine into my yard from down the street. I am not stealing anything if I use that light to find something I dropped, though the light's emitter is surely not my own. Since radio and visible light are basically the same thing, I think this analogy is pretty close.

But it's not quite complete, because the other thing going on is that my wireless emitter can also see your signal, and potentially act upon it. It's an autonomous agent of sorts.

I think a dog in the yard is a pretty good analogy here. The dog may bark at you to tell you he's there, or it may sit quietly. If you're not the dog's master, most dogs will not follow your commands. But if the dog is unusually friendly, maybe it'll bring the paper out to you if you ask in the right way. An open access point is like a smart dog that obeys everyone and will fetch anything that's not nailed down.

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