Code of Ethics: Is Wifi the Wild Wild West of Computing?

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Wi-Fi, a shortened name for wireless fidelity internet access, is a method of connecting to the Internet using radio waves rather than cables, thus making computer usage more convenient than ever as the user is no longer restricted to the confines of his or her own private space. Now a wireless computer user can tap into their own or their employer’s wireless network, but they also may be able to tap into neighbor’s as well. With the increased availability of wireless computer networks comes a new ethical dilemma. Just because you can tap into someone else’s computer network, known variously as piggybacking, whacking, joyriding, war-chalking, air-hopping or war-driving, does that mean that it is ethical to do so?

While many people believe that tapping into someone else’s wireless network is a harmless activity and has no downsides for the wireless network’s owner, in reality there are indeed negative consequences and therefore the practice cannot be considered ethical. Courts have determined that joyriding on another’s wireless network is a case of trespass against the owner’s router because this action could cause harm by slowing down the speed of the network and/or by introducing viruses into that network. The person tapping into someone else’s Wi-Fi also causes harm to the Internet Service Provider. These companies are in business to sell access to the Internet. Using someone else’s account without their authorization denies companies their rightful profit.

There is also the potential harm that comes because someone doesn’t secure their Wi-Fi. It allows unauthorized access and in some cases allows firewalls and filters which have been established for security and safety particularly for minors to be evaded and ignored. In...

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