UK Broadband arrests for accessing open broadband networks

April 19, 2007 by  

Two Redditch residents have become among the first in the country to be arrested for tapping into wireless broadband without expressed permission.

Both individuals were cautioned for dishonestly using internet services without intention to pay (wardriving or piggybacking) but it is believed there is no connection between the the individuals.

The incidents have served to raise awareness among local residents about what is a growing trend in the UK.

PC Tony Humphreys, from West Mercia Police, said:

“We want people to be aware that [broadband theft] is possible and to be vigilant themselves regarding their own broadband connections,” reports the Press Association.

“This might slow down your internet service, or more importantly, your internet connection could be used for unlawful purposes.”

“We do not want to alarm wireless broadband users – we want them to follow the advice on wireless broadband security issued to them by their broadband providers.”

Wireless broadband connections can often be accessed from outside a user’s home but can be easily configured to stop unauthorised individuals gaining access to them.

The individuals could have been prosecuted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act:

“Anyone who intends to listen to radio transmissions should be aware of the following: A licence is not required for a radio receiver as long as it is not capable of transmission as well (The Wireless Telegraphy Apparatus (Receivers) (Exemption) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No 123). Furthermore, Wi-fi devices are a subset (defined under IEEE 802.11 interoperability standards) of the licence exempt RLAN segment of the 2.4 GHz radio frequency band. Under the terms of the exemption, a licence is only required for the operation of commercial wi-fi services such as “hotspots”. However, although it is not illegal to sell, buy or own a scanning or other receiver in the UK, it must only be used to listen to transmissions meant for GENERAL RECEPTION. The services that you can listen to include Amateur and Citizens’ Band transmissions, licensed broadcast radio and weather and navigation broadcasts. It is an offence to listen to any other radio services unless you are authorised by a designated person to do so. There are two offences under law: Under Section 5(1)(b) of the WT Act 1949 it is an offence if a person “otherwise than under the authority of a designated person, either: (i) uses any wireless telegraphy apparatus with intent to obtain information as to the contents, sender or addressee of any message whether sent by means of wireless telegraphy or not, of which neither the person using the apparatus nor a person on whose behalf he is acting is an intended recipient; This means that it is illegal to listen to anything other than general reception transmissions unless you are either a licensed user of the frequencies in question or have been specifically authorised to do so by a designated person. A designated person means:

  • the Secretary of State;
  • the Commissioners of Customs and Excise; or
  • any other person designated for the purpose by regulations made by the Secretary of State.

or: (ii) except in the course of legal proceedings or for the purpose of any report thereof, discloses any information as to the contents, sender or addressee of any such message, being information which would not have come to his knowledge but for the use of wireless telegraphy apparatus by him or by another person.” This means that it is also illegal to tell a third party what you have heard. With certain exceptions, it is an offence under Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 for a person – “intentionally and without lawful authority to intercept, at any place in the United Kingdom, any communication in the course of its transmission by means of:

  • a public postal service; or
  • a public telecommunication system.

It is similarly an offence to intercept any communication in the course of its transmission by means of a private telecommunication system. This means that it is illegal to listen to telephone calls, including mobile phone networks which are designated as forming part of the public telecommunications system.”

UK Broadband arrests

April 19, 2007 by  

The police in Redditch have made their second arrest for broadband ‘tapping’ – the process of stealing broadband from another 3rd parties home or business network.

A second person in Redditch has been arrested on suspicion of tapping into a wireless broadband connection. They have been received with a caution. This is the second broadband tapping arrest this month (14th April 2007).

At around 9pm on Saturday, April 14, a neighbour spotted a man sitting in a car using a laptop computer outside a property in the Church Hill area and alerted police, suspected the individual of tapping into a home network.

Pc Tony Humphreys, from Redditch police, said:

“We are reminding people with wireless broadband that their connections could be accessed in this way if they do not follow the security advice issued to them by their broadband provider.

“We also want to warn potential offenders that we take any reports of this type of activity very seriously. A woman was arrested in similar circumstances in a residential road near Redditch town centre last month and she also received a police caution.”

The man arrested was cautioned with dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services with intent to avoid payment – Jacking for short! These latest arrests could cause problems for the various peer-to-peer broadband schemes being set-up

What do you think to internet and broadband jacking? It has been around for years in various forms. Should people be free to use wireless networks that have been left un-secured or should the police be arresting these people? Leave your comments.