Got Wi-Fi? You Cannot Be Held Liable for Pirates on Your Network

Got Wi-Fi? You Cannot Be Held Liable for Pirates on Your NetworkWe are all keenly aware that Wi-Fi connections — from our home network or place of business — leave us vulnerable to hackers compromising our Internet connections. The unfortunate reality is that some of our neighbors may not be aware of this vulnerability and, as a result, have failed to properly secure their network from outsiders. Knowing that hackers can access an Internet connection brings up an interesting point. If someone hacks into your network and sends out spam in your name, including such things as porn, are you to be held responsible?

The possibility of serving jail time for unintentionally transmitting such things through the Internet has always caused some of us anxiety about how to protect our networks from invasion by these unscrupulous individuals. To begin with, this anxiety usually revolves around our concern about which firewall or which security application will best prevent someone from hacking into our network. In fact, this concern has been used as the major scenario in some television shows and movies, demonstrating how an innocent person can be arrested for sending out porn from their Internet connection when, in fact, they had no idea it was occurring.

However, Internet abuses do occur, which has resulted in a federal court case regarding Internet users who were accused of downloading illegal movies. In this case, the prosecution claims that the charged suspects downloaded the movies illegally. On the other hand, the defense claims that none of the charged parties were aware of the downloads and didn’t intentionally seek to take advantage of the movie industry. The defense’s presentation focused on the fact that the only thing each one of the accused had in common was that they all had failed to secure their computer networks. Fortunately for the accused, the defense’s strategy succeeded and a panel of their peers determined that none of the defendants were guilty of any crime — except the crime of stupidity. However, there was one other conclusion that the court made that will have an effect on all of us.

During the summation, the judge in this Northern California federal court made it very clear that a user cannot be held responsible if, without the owner’s permission, another party hacks into their computer network and commits a crime. To further bolster a computer user’s rights, a New York judge held that a user other than the computer’s owner could not be held liable for copyright infringement, even if the owner of the network knew about the illegal activity.

My main hope from these decisions is that honest citizens who are the victims of hacking cannot be held responsible for crimes committed by others. It is also hoped that other courts throughout the land will uphold these decisions and rule the same, thus throwing out frivolous lawsuits that are only intended to fleece honest citizens of their hard-earned capital.

However, before you run out into the street and start jumping for joy, there is a current case in Massachusetts that may bring another issue to light and create problems for all of us. In this case, it is being claimed that users should be held responsible for not securing their networks and allowing others to hack into them. Once again, we can only hope that the court will see through this sham and throw the case out of court.

However, it is easy to see that as each case is addressed and new technology develops, there are always going to be people out there who want to protect their creations and others who seek a method to circumvent the safeguards to make a dollar. We can hope, though, there will come a day when we will be able to surf the Internet without fear of being taken to court.

What do you think? Share your thoughts and ideas with us.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Source: TechNews Daily

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Ben Spark

Article Written by

I have been writing for LockerGnome since relocating to Missouri seven years ago, where I continue to be a technology enthusiast who enjoys playing with the newest and latest gadgets.

  • http://www.veritate-et-virtute.com BurgessCT

    However, over in Germany a man was fined for having a router operating without security (see:
    http://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/1954308/german-fined-poor-wi-fi-security ) – not the first time an individual has been fined and held responsible for having their WiFi set-up in an insecurely.

    I would imagine that one would have to show that they had set up their network with a sufficiently secure password and that a miscreant hacked their way into your router to escape the long-hand of the EU law.

    BTW, a very nice piece.
    All the best,
    Christopher

  • http://www.facebook.com/ajamison1 Andrew Jamison

    I am a bit torn I view it like this, If the person is not versed in what the benefits are to securing a network or are unaware of how to do it then no I would think this would be an unfair assumption to think them responsible, however on the flip side if you know why you need to lock down a network but refuse to do it then yes I think you should have some measure of responsibility.

  • Rachel Eliason

    If someone does something illegal on your network the cops are going to show up on your doorsteps and accuse you of it. They will probably seize your computers. Once they’ve done a thorough inspection of all your files to prove your innocence, who knows what shape your stuff will be in. I am thinking that even without legal charges the punishment more than fits the crime.

  • jim smith

    Leaving your house unlocked does not give permission for unauthorized entry. The crime is committed once that door or window is opened. Whatever happens in your house, be it to your belongings or to persons inside it entirely the responsibility of the criminal. It’s stupid to leave your house unlocked, but it’s not a crime.