Illegal WiFi

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Illegal WiFi

Just when you thought the world was one big happy WiFi sharing place, someone gets arrested. Police recently charged a Florida man with a third-degree felony charge. According to this article, he allegedly accessed a WiFi network belonging to a St. Petersburg man without permission. According to the police, Benjamin Smith III was seen by Richard Dinon outside Dinon's home on the night of April 20, 2005, sitting in a parked SUV and using a laptop computer. When Dinon went outside to deposit his trash, Smith quickly closed the laptop and tried to hide it.

Dinon also stated that he later observed foreign icons on his home computer screen, and suspected that Smith, 41, may have been using his network. He called police and an officer confronted Smith at 11:30 p.m., two hours after the initial sighting.

"The arresting officer wasn't initially sure a violation took place," said George Kajtsa of the St. Petersburg Police Department. "He consulted our legal staff and they looked up the relevant statute."

The charge, unauthorized access to a computer network, applies to all varieties of computer network breaches, and gives prosecutors considerable leeway depending on the severity. It carries a potential sentence ranging from probation to 5 years in prison.

Smith faces a pretrial hearing on Monday, July 11.

"The sentence we'll seek depends on whether he was accessing the Internet for basic personal use, or using it for pecuniary gain -- like identity theft -- or other illicit reasons," said Fred Schaub of Florida's State Attorney's office.

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