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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Police WI-FI disaster

State thought police

The BBC's technological coverage has always been completely impotent and worthless. And what better example than the story of Gregory Straszkiewicz, sentenced for using someone else's WIFI connection, which is not a piece of journalism but a police press release. This is a story from a coule of days ago, and has been well discussed elsewhere but I want to go over some things from the BBC's coverage as it is quite astonishing.

The article begins with:

"There are a lot of implications and this could open the floodgates to many more such cases," said Phil Cracknell, chief technology officer of security firm NetSurity

The first danger sign here being the dreaded security firm quote.

Details in this particular case are sketchy, although it is known that Gregory Straszkiewicz had "piggybacked" on a wireless broadband network of a local Ealing resident, using a laptop while sitting in his car.

Let's hear that again: "Details in this particular case are sketchy".

With wi-fi operating at speeds of up to 20 times faster than broadband it is unlikely to slow the system down noticeably unless the borrower is downloading huge files and, unless the owner of the network has intrusion detection software, he or she is unlikely to notice the squatters.

With wi-fi operating at speeds of up to 20 times faster than broadband?!

How is wi-fi 20 times faster than broadband ??!?! Wifi is a set of networking standards for a WLAN, it is not normally a direct path to an ISP. It is a completely ignorant and inappropriate comparison. So we can see where this article is going.

Not to Simon Janes, a former head of the Computer Crime Unit (Does she mean National Hi-Tech Crime Unit ?) and now operations manager for computer forensics firm Ibas.

'Security expert' again. Getting bored yet ?

"Gaining unauthorised access to someone else's network is an offence and people have to take responsibility for their actions. Some people might argue that taking a joy-ride in someone else's car is not an offence either," he said.

Gaining unauthorised access to a computer is an offence covered by the Computer Misuse Act. In Straszkiewcz's case, he was prosecuted under the Communications Act and found guilty of dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service.

So why not prosecute under the Computer Misuse Act ?
What was so interesting about the Communications Act ?

The fact that Straszkiewicz narrowly escaped a harsher sentence, had to pay a £500 fine and had his laptop and wireless card confiscated indicates such squatting might not be worthwhile.


At best, it indicates that the police's time is being wasted on frivolous meaningless 'offenses' and their resources being misused.

At worst, it indicates institutional adulteration of the application of law for politcal ends; that someone high up decided to make an example for specific reasons unrelated to the case in hand. Along those lines it may even indicate the individual was payed off to take this punishment.

It would indicate that the British licence fee is being squandered on wobbly useless dregs with no undestanding about the subjects they are reporting on like Jane Wakefield, the supposed author of this 'article'. However in this case, the article is a press release, so I doubt Jane got paid for that.

Detective Constable Stephone Rothwell from Ealing CID was involved in the case and said future cases would be treated in the same way.

"This case is the first of its type in the United Kingdom and it sets an example to people who use increased computer technology to try and avoid paying for the internet," he said.

No it doesn't. Where is there law stating you must pay for the internet?

D.C Rothwell, there are people out there murdering other people, molesting children and strapping bombs to themselves. And this is your police work ?

Sounds like you were not too sure what you were trying to enforce or why, which should come as no suprise from a policeman sitting on his backside arresting people for getting free internet access. And people pay you to do that. Thanks for demonstrating where the some of police's priorities lie and for humiliating your entire force, or were you not aware there was an enormous terrorist plot going on ?

Any policeman worth his sort and who was aware of the law would have asked him to move on and said a resident has made a complaint and that would be the end of it. Instead you saught a prosecution which makes me wonder where that order to prosecute came from and why. And who was this resident ?

Although no one seems to know the exact details of the the specific case (they are sketchy remember), it seems on the face of it that Straszkiewicz should have challenged this properly, instead he seems to have taken the rap for reasons unknown.

Good job the police weren't armed on this occasion.


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