Actually, I really hope you don’t. Unless it’s deliberate, then I’ll let you off.
Unsecured wireless networks are rather common, both in New Zealand and elsewhere.
Sometimes it’s from a conscious decision to share (Starbucks, Mc Donalds, the library) but generally it’s because the owner of the network has no idea that their network is insecure, let alone how to secure it!
There’s really no excuse for unintentionally having an unsecured network, especially when there’s so many how-to’s floating around and poor students who’d happily show you for a quick buck. So there’s a lot of people that see unsecured networks as an open invitation to make themselves at home, chill out with a few cookies and flick off emails or whatever else they want to do.
But, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of unintentional hotspot providers who are decidedly miffed about the whole thing which has legislators around the world frantically creating policy around what’s legal and illegal use.
In America it depends on which state you’re in as to whether it’s illegal or not, although the Federal stance seems to be that it is illegal. There’s a really interesting discussion around it on the CNet Forums that I sporadically frequent, my favourite discussion can be found here. This one took place early 2006, just as personal wireless was becoming firmly entrenched in the home. From other more recent discussions I’ve gatecrashed, I can tell you that views haven’t changed much.
In Finland the law has been changed from “accessing wireless without express permission is illegal” to “if it’s an open network, it’s fair game”.
This has sparked huge discussions internationally, with most people applauding the Finnish Government for creating legislation that actually reflects their society and the new questions that advances in technology have brought to the table.
You may be asking yourselves “where does little old New Zealand sit?” The answer?
In New Zealand the unauthorised use of a wireless network may be prosecuted under the crimes act. In fact today, in Palmerston North, a man was arrested for allegedly stealing wireless internet! (Which completely incidentally was what sparked this post)
I personally believe if you’re too stupid or lazy to secure your network than it’s fair game.
I don’t believe that you should be liable for any illicit activity that goes on though, that would be taking it too far.
What I believe in most strongly though is that we need up-to-date legislation along the same line as Finland’s, rather than lumping the use of unsecured networks in with breaking and entering.
It’s not the same thing, ask any insurance company.