NH considers legalizing war-driving.
bitbitch at magnesium.net
bitbitch at magnesium.net
Tue Apr 29 18:00:09 PDT 2003
Or at least they might...
NH considers a new bill that will give individuals free license to War
Drive in the state. I am so mapping this. And I am so hitting
Fusion. I've gone to that place at least 4 times now, but never
clued in on the wireless access. Hellsya. Now I just need an
Licensed to War Drive in N.H.
By Brian McWilliams
02:00 AM Apr. 29, 2003 PT
DURHAM, New Hampshire -- A land where white pines easily outnumber
wireless computer users, New Hampshire may seem an unlikely haven for
the free networking movement.
But the state, known for its Live Free or Die motto, could become the
first in the United States to provide legal protection for people who
tap into insecure wireless networks.
A bill that's breezing through New Hampshire's legislature says
operators of wireless networks must secure them -- or lose some of
their ability to prosecute anyone who gains access to the networks.
House Bill 495 would, experts say, effectively legalize many forms of
what's known as war driving -- motoring through an inhabited area
while scanning for open wireless access points.
Increasingly popular with businesses and consumers, wireless networks
use radio waves to transmit data between computers in a network. The
convenient, low-cost equipment often is deployed to allow employees or
household members to share a single Internet connection.
To simplify installation, wireless systems typically ship without any
security features enabled. Because the radio waves broadcast by
wireless base stations are relatively powerful, it's not uncommon for
residential neighbors or adjacent businesses to inadvertently connect
to each other's wireless networks.
Some wireless owners leave their access points unsecured on purpose. A
grassroots effort known as the open network movement is attempting to
create a worldwide grid of Internet-connected wireless access points.
A computer enthusiast with a DSL or cable modem at home may, for
example, intentionally provide free wireless access to the connection
while he's away at work.
New Hampshire's proposed wireless law was hailed as "enlightened" by
the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a California-based digital rights
Lee Tien, a lawyer for the EFF, said the bill would help clarify the
legality of the open networking movement.
"It seems like a fairly clean way of accommodating the geek-culture
practice of having open wireless access points without doing anything
bad for security," said Tien.
The appeal of tapping into free Internet connections while on the go
has led to an activity known as war chalking, in which wireless fans
scratch special markings on pavement to indicate open connections.
Thousands of wireless "hotspots" offered by hotels, restaurants and
other commercial establishments also are listed in online databases
such as 80211hotspots.com.
To understand the genesis of New Hampshire's proposed law, just boot
up a wireless-enabled laptop at the Fusion Internet Cafe and Espresso
Bar on Elm Street in Manchester, the state's largest city.
Fusion has been offering free wireless access to coffee drinkers for
the past four months. But co-owner Carlos Pineda said he sometimes
turns on his laptop at the cafe and finds himself connected instead to
a wireless local-area network, or WLAN, operated by the CVS drugstore
located across the street.
"I don't even think their employees are aware the signal from their
Internet is being broadcast outside of their space," said Pineda.
"That means I have access to their (Internet protocol) address so I
can break into their system. Personally I can't, but other, more-savvy
people could do it."
The legality of such inadvertent wireless network intrusions is murky.
Last year, a Texas man was indicted, but later cleared, on charges
that he illegally gained access to the wireless network of the Harris
County district clerk.
Like most state and federal computer crime laws, New Hampshire's
existing statute says it is a crime to knowingly access any computer
network without authorization. By analogy, just because someone leaves
his house unlocked doesn't mean you are authorized to walk inside, sit
on the couch or help yourself to the contents of the fridge.
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