"He's a criminal! My Wifi says so!

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 31 October 2008

What would you do if your had an open WiFi and found your neighbours were using it? Most of us would probably set up encryption. A Lincolnshire home PC user decided to call the police instead.

At this point, according to Bill Ray, things became farcical: 

"Lincolnshire police arrested a 16-year-old suspected of hacking into next door's WiFi after his neighbour complained the connection was running a bit slow."

The bare facts appear to be that the arrest was all official and solemn; the police quoted the Computer Misuse Act 1990, arrested him, and after three hours of questioning, offered to "let him off with a caution."

Sensibly, his father refused a police caution which would have given the lad a criminal record. 

Ten days later a letter was pushed through the boy's door cancelling his bail and stating that no additional action would be taken. There was no further explanation.

OK, the evidence didn't stand up, but what was the evidence, apart from "my Internet seems a bit slow"?

Not much, reports Ray; the lad did log onto the neighbour's WiFi by mistake (not a crime) and his motive was obscure (he had a WiFi connection of his own!) and the neighbour insisted that he actually had secure WiFi, but he didn't. So he said it had been hacked. And the hacker had removed the security.

The boy's father has now responded by filing a complaint for unlawful arrest and detention.

"It would be plausible," notes Ray, "that the neighbour's friend, trying to explain the outages in connectivity, noticed the DHCP allocation and so assumed hacking activity, assuming that any lack of security must be attributable to a 'hacker' disabling it." Indeed; and normal procedure really should have involved someone with more forensic experience.

But apparently, not.

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