Wed, Jul. 06, 2005


CK - Washington.   Accessing wireless LAN systems hosted by others does not constitute a crime under German law, Ulf Buermeyer concludes in his detailed analysis Der strafrechtliche Schutz drahtloser Computernetwerke (WLANs).

The converse may be true only for WIFI networks that the host protects against the use by others, even if such protection consists of the useless WEP encryption scheme. Buermeyer's analysis addresses only the use by a visitor of the network for internet access. Other rules would apply if the third party were to seek access to the data on the computer systems bound to the WIFI network.

The result is unsurprising because establishing a wireless network without protection is generally known to constitute an invitation. Most computers will automatically log into any open WIFI network and cannot tell whether its operator discourages visitors unless there is password protection and encryption. FBI work has shown that WEP protection leaves such networks as good as open and an invitation to third parties: 3 Minuten mit dem FBI.

Buermeyer closes his discussion with an outlook to future legislation. He predicts that the constitution would not detect sufficient legal interests in an open network that future criminal law could validly protect.

The German law blog has a good number of follow-up comments on the issue.

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