Is Stealing Wi-Fi from My Neighbor a Good Idea?

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Is Stealing Wi-Fi from My Neighbor a Good Idea?

Jordan Gaither · Oct 7, 2009

Stealing wifi, or wireless Internet, from your neighbors is a terrible idea on many different levels.

First and foremost, it’s dishonest. You’re pilfering a service from someone who is legally paying for it, no different than pirating television cable or stealing someone’s newspaper. Just because they don’t have their network encrypted doesn’t mean they’ve issued an open invitation to everyone in the building.

Stealing Wi-Fi Is Against the Law

If you don’t care about being dishonest, then consider this: Even for the barely technology literate, finding out who is stealing their Internet would be child’s play. Five minutes on Google and you’re lucky if it’s only your neighbor you’re in trouble with. Theft, even of a service like the Internet, is punishable by law.

In addition, whatever trouble you might get up to on the Internet while using your neighbor’s wireless becomes their trouble, too. Anything illegal being done using a wireless service registered to your neighbor will be brought to your neighbor’s doorstep by the authorities. Once your neighbor denies responsibility, the next move is to find out who else could have committed the offense (which is you).

You see, your computer has a specific code built into it when it accesses a wireless network, called an “IP address”. This code marks your computer as distinctly yours, and as I mentioned above, it’s laughably easy to find a rogue IP address using your wireless.

The Connection Will Be Slow

Last and, for once, certainly least, a shared wireless connection is a terribly slow way to connect to the Internet. Your neighbor has a certain amount of bandwidth coming to their apartment, which determines how fast their Internet connection is. Simple mathematics tells us that having two computers instead of one using it cuts the speed of the connection in half, and the worst part is, your Internet is slow and your victim’s Internet is slow, meaning everyone loses.

The best way to avoid having a molasses-speed Internet connection that makes you a social pariah in the building and might even bring the cops around for a not-so-friendly game of 20 Questions is to just get your own Internet.

There are lots of providers that will deliver high-speed Internet right to your apartment for relatively little every month, and then you can have fast Internet that’s all your own.

Oh, but be sure to encrypt your wireless signal; wouldn’t want some degenerate pirate stealing what’s rightfully yours, now would we?

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Jordan Gaither: I’m a Communications major by trade, an artist by choice, a welder by day and a dancer by night (Okay, I made that last part up). Having lived in a succession of cramped, oddly-shaped apartments, I have a wealth of personal experience in apartment living, as well as arranging and decorating to maximize effect and livable space.

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