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Man Charged for Using Cafe's Free Wi-Fi

Man Charged for Using Cafe's Free Wi-Fi

And by charged I mean a $400 fine and get 40 hours of community service for stealing Wi-Fi. That's right folks, Sam Peterson II, who used a Michigan cafe's free wireless network to check his e-mail will be dishing out enough dough to buy 3/4 of an iPhone and weeks worth of community service for his offense. Apparently, the cafe where Peterson logged on is a popular WiFi spot and Peterson didn't realize not paying for access was such an offense. Here's more:

I knew that the Union Street had WiFi," he told 24 Hour News 8. "I just went down and checked my e-mail and didn't see a problem with that." But Peterson did it everyday, and from his car. He drove up, parked, and piggybacked onto the Union Street network.

Piggybacking, which means using someone else's WiFi without their permission, currently lies in a gray legal area in most states. A local police chief became suspicious of what Peterson was doing in his car every day and eventually talked to him and issued a warning. After thinking about it a bit the police chief did a little investigation and found that "unauthorized use of computer access" is in fact a crime in Michigan. Soon afterward, a warrant was issued for Peterson's arrest on a "five year felony, $10,000 fine."

According to the police, if Peterson would have gone into the cafe everyday he wouldn't have been charged. A fact that apparently even confused the coffee shop owner who said she didn't know it was really illegal, either. "If he would have come in (to the coffee shop) it would have been fine," the owner told reporters.

I don't know about you, but if I had a penny for every time I've logged on to a wireless signal that didn't belong to me, I'd have a healthy latte fund. What do you think of this case?

Join The Conversation
a4mula a4mula 8 years
The real travesty here is the fact that he was originally issued a felony warrant. Soon afterward, a warrant was issued for Peterson's arrest on a "five year felony, $10,000 fine." While he may have never been charged, commited, or convicted of a felony offense that warrant will linger and haunt him for the rest of his life. While actual charges can be expunged, the issuing of a warrant cannot be. Every back ground check will pull this up. Easy enough to explain away, assuming that whomever is doing the background check gives you the opportunity, which is rare. Just another day in our corrupted justice system.
KellyFL KellyFL 8 years
Sounds to me like the cop doesn't have enough to do. Let me guess. He sits for hours in the coffee shop and happened to notice the guy sitting outside then investigated. Having too little to do, he had to make an arrest for this terrible crime. And then there is the shop owner. She has so much business that she chose to prosecute this guy instead of inviting him inside for a cup of coffee and turning him into a customer. Wow! What a screwed up town. Then there is the press. No one has named the city or the business that prosecuted. Why not?
monkeysSuck monkeysSuck 8 years
TylersFat was responding to Nightwind's comment that you should browse in "stealth mode" when you are on someone else's network. Nightwind was probably referring to the private browsing mode in Safari, or settings on her firewall that prevent pings and the like, and TylersFat is right: they can see you were on the network, for the reasons he listed. There isn't any way to hide that. The mode YOU are talking about is a mode for a network to be in to hide the network from people on piggybacking. On topic, this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard, but not the first time that someone has been charged with piggybacking. It's one thing when it is someone's private network, but when it is advertised as free, I guess it doesn't mean free in Michigan. Even worse, if he had just been inside, he wouldn't have been charged. Doesn't make sense at all.
livingstonetech livingstonetech 8 years
I live about 10 miles from where the incident occurred. One major key in all of this is that the coffee shop decided not to file charges and furthermore thought the whole situation to be outrageous. I guess the cops in the area are a little bored. Nonetheless, it is stupid to put such a law against it. If the coffee shop was worried about it they can use wifi hotspot software. You know, the kind that makes you accept an agreement before using the service.
Biscuitz Biscuitz 8 years
A "stealth" AP (Access Point), or broadband WiFi router, is one that has the capability and is configured to not broadcast its SSID (Service Set Identifier), also known as the network name. This is the WLAN (WiFi Local Area Network) network name that appears when a DMU (Device Management Utility, such as Intel® PROSet, etc.) scans for available WLANs. It is commonly considered a security feature, albeit a weak one, in that it does not readily disclose the presence of the WLAN. To connect to a stealth mode AP/router, a user must specifically know the SSID and configure his/her DMU accordingly. The feature is not a part of the 802.11 specification, and is known by differing names by various vendors - closed mode, private network, SSID broadcasting, etc.
Hi1t3k Hi1t3k 9 years
Technically, I think there is a difference between complimentary and FREE. Complimentary implies it's part of the package. For example you get complimentary breadstick and salad refills at Olive Garden. FREE means that you could go in the restaurant and ask for salad and breadsticks. In the same way, venues should be clear about the Wi-Fi being FREE or complimentary. If it's free, put FREE in the SSID to not confuse people.
TylerIsFat TylerIsFat 10 years
There is no such thing as stealth mode. The end. I am an IT student in Wisconsin so I would like to enlighten you as to why there is no such thing as stealth mode. To access any network you need an IP address. An IP address uniquely defines you on the network and is NEEDED to interact with that network. Part of the process of obtaining an IP address is basically telling a DHCP server what you MAC address is. A MAC address uniquely defines a network interface and never changes. It is branded on every network card as it manufactured. MAC addresses are stored on wireless routers for up to seven days after you have disconnected from the network. Therefore for at least 7 days after you completely leave the area ANYBODY that has access to the router (not just police or coffee house owners) can see that you have been connected to that network. If you don't understand any of that. Just google it. Also if anybody uses internet cafes to check email just don't. That is another really stupid idea. Wi-Fi is a broadcast transmission and anybody with a Wi-Fi card within about 100 feet of you can monitor and use any information you send over the internet while using wireless internet. I should know I did a case study on Wi-Fi. I sat at an internet cafe for 3 hours and acquired 15 credit card numbers. While I didn't use the numbers or disclose them to anybody it really does show exactly what is possible.
Beautifulbarbie Beautifulbarbie 10 years
Somethings not right about this.
krob krob 10 years
This was wayyy harsh. It should be up to the owner of the wifi signal to secure it. Don't the police have better things to do?
kneesocks kneesocks 10 years
poor guy. That's very unfair.
ikitty13 ikitty13 10 years
Very unfair, he didn't deserve it, after all it was FREE. People should password protect their networks if they don't want people to "share." I know lots of people who mooch off a faster signal, is it really that wrong?
Ghettomocha Ghettomocha 10 years
He did not deserve that fine, and don't even get me started on the community service... unbearably ridiculous...
Hope5 Hope5 10 years
I remember hearing about this!
cravinsugar cravinsugar 10 years
how do you scam in stealth mode?
Nightwind Nightwind 10 years
They had it available for free, people are going to use it for free, inside the store or not. And if youre ganna be scamming wi-fi, do it in stealth mode if you can. Not that I reccomend doing it all the time, but once in a while, you can be caught in a jam far from home, and you need to look something up, and you happen to have your laptop with you. Ive scammed unsecured wi-fi when I had to, my place was unavailable for high speed internet services, and I used dial-up when I could, but that is annoying at this day and age...but now I have wifi at home so I dont need to. I think a bunch of people have done this a bunch of times over. Im sorry that this guy got caught.
colormesticky colormesticky 10 years
That's ridiculous. If they aren't smart enough to password protect then they have to assume they're going to be sharing with piggybackers. :rant:
cravinsugar cravinsugar 10 years
They could have a passkey that they change every day. The code could print on the receipt to use the internet. Also, this may seem harsh but....if you are not going to secure it, your loss? I pay for my internet. and i have used it in my car at other's people's places...but only twice...once at my boyf's house because i was locked out, and once at my fathers place of business cause i needed to. haha.
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