IF A LAW proposed last week in Maryland gets passed, intentionally using a neighbour's wireless Internet connection without permission will be a crime.
State delegate LeRoy E. Myers, Jr. said his bill aims to distinguish between intentional theft and accidental use. He told the story that a neighbour of his unintentionally used his wireless network and said that he would not want to see such inadvertent wireless trespassing prosecuted like computer hacking, which is typically a felony punishable with stiff fines and lengthy prison time.
He cited the story of some man in Michigan who was prosecuted for parking outside a coffee shop and freeriding on its wireless network to check his email.
The man was charged with a felony and faced a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
As an alternative, the man chose a diversion program, a $400 fine, spending 40 hours in community service and six months probation.
Myers' draft bill defines intentional, unauthorised access to another person's computer, network, database or software as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to three years in jail.
The Maryland public defenders office filed opposition to Myers' bill. It observed that wireless Internet access is becoming common in neighbourhoods and that proving that unauthorised wireless access was intentional would be difficult.
Instead, the public defenders office proposed that Internet account owners might more effectively secure their wireless networks with help from Internet service providers or vendors. It didn't suggest that a law is needed for that. µ
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