WarChalkers are thieves
September 19, 2002 5:32 AM   Subscribe

WarChalkers are thieves Phone maker Nokia has come down strongly against warchalking. "This is theft, plain and simple."
posted by Mwongozi (27 comments total)
For all the hype, has anyone actually seen a warchalked mark in the wild?
posted by ph00dz at 5:45 AM on September 19, 2002

Actually the BBC article is titled wrongly. The quote from the BBC is "Now Nokia has joined the chorus of criticism by saying that anyone who sits outside an office and uses a company's wireless network to do their own web surfing is stealing.". In other words, the people who use the networks are stealing, not those that draw the symbols.
posted by ralawrence at 6:16 AM on September 19, 2002

Does Nokia have any words for people inside offices who don't bother enabling WEP?

(yes, I know it's really not that secure, but at least you're making the folks on the outside work for it...)
posted by jburka at 6:20 AM on September 19, 2002

Any company that does not even make the slighest attempt to secure their network should probably be considered as putting a sign out that says, "free bandwidth".
posted by benjh at 6:35 AM on September 19, 2002

"For all the hype, has anyone actually seen a warchalked mark in the wild?"

Yup, the place I work in London got warchalked about a month ago. Our concern was that we need to upload huge files to clients on a regular basis, and any extra burden on our bandwidth was a potential problem. On the positive side, our network manager got smart about encryption real quick.

Most people have no qualms about trying to get a free ride - labeling it as "theft" is not going to be much of a deterrence. The burden is on the company to make their networks secure.
posted by arha at 6:40 AM on September 19, 2002

Here's some cool photographic evidence from Manchester By the Sea in Mass. Courtesy of Boing Boing a few weeks ago.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:49 AM on September 19, 2002

I agree with your sentiment, benjh, but I don't think that's totally fair. Saying someone who doesn't high-secure their bandwidth deserves to have it hijacked is like saying that someone who leaves their house unlocked deserves to get robbed, or that someone wearing revealing clothing deserves to get sexually harassed.

We live in a society that realizes that people, if wanting to so something, can pretty much do it- laws exist to protect people from the other people who don't know where to draw the line at what they actually decide to take the freedom to do. That doesn't mean they're allowed to.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:05 AM on September 19, 2002

or that someone wearing revealing clothing deserves to get sexually harassed

No ... that would be more like like saying that someone who doesn't paint their house deserves to get robbed. Just a minor nitpick ...
posted by walrus at 7:28 AM on September 19, 2002

As intoxicating as new technology is, companies (or in-duh-viduals for that matter) who rush headlong into that technology without fully thinking through the ramifications deserve what they get. You can't expect to get the benefit of something without paying the cost associated with it, which sometimes means moving more slowly than you might like. "I want some candy! I want some candy!" is not the ideal mission statement, though more often than not it is in fact what society is shouting as it walks blindfolded across the street. Warchalking seems to be a viable (and positive) form of social disobedience that reinforces the no-free-lunch principle.
posted by ElvisJesus at 7:52 AM on September 19, 2002

Wearing revealing clothing deserves to be oogled.

Anyway 802.11x, and anything on the 2.4ghz range is on unregulated spectrum. Unregulated. look up what that means.

you cannot steal what you cannot own.
posted by delmoi at 8:03 AM on September 19, 2002


anyone wearing revealing clothing deserves to be oogled.

would be what I mean to say.
posted by delmoi at 8:05 AM on September 19, 2002

The article seems to miss the point that WarChalking is also used by community/collabarative networks, more as an invite than anything else.
On the subject of corporate networks, misuse of other peoples equipment is obviously not a nice thing to be doing. If someone came along and hijacked my home connection (not that it's worth it ;) ) due to a vulnerability I wasn't aware of, I'd be pretty narked. A lot of corporate networks (as far as I know anyway) are already short on bandwidth anyway, thanks to employees browsing (I'm not at work... honest ;) ).
In short, I think Chalking is a great tool for the community, but it can be abused. See also - Most Other Technology Ever.
posted by PeteTheHair at 8:08 AM on September 19, 2002

you cannot steal what you cannot own.

but, they're paying for the internet access. Using the internet access without authorization, regardless of medium, is stealing.
posted by trioperative at 8:09 AM on September 19, 2002

If it's primary use is for identifying community networks allowing free access, rather than companies with insecure networks that allow access, then shouldn't a better name have been chosen? Warchalking just sounds like an extension of wardialling et al so of course people are going to jump to that conclusion. Of course, had another name been chosen then the idea probably wouldn't have taken off so well.
posted by kerplunk at 8:17 AM on September 19, 2002

you cannot steal what you cannot own.
Don't be daft. By this logic, anyone who uses a cordless phone (also on 2.4Ghz) deserves to have their phone conversations listened to, and is practically inviting me to make international calls on their bill. I'll make sure I tell the police that when I get picked up.
Incidentally, yes, I have seen one in the wild... I live (just too far) down the road from the Kynance Community Wireless Thingy, run by a very nice man who voluntarily shares his T1 with the cafe across his street. Cheers Ben :) There was a photo of it on warchalking.org, but the site seems to have been /.'ed from this news.
posted by PeteTheHair at 8:27 AM on September 19, 2002

"Empire without justice is mere robbery"

-St. Augustine
posted by clavdivs at 8:32 AM on September 19, 2002

I named my Airport "mars network, open for all" in hopes that someone at the Lux cafe downstairs would pick up the signal. Unfortunately I have no way of monitoring activity so I don't know whether anyone has taken advantage of the bandwidth yet. Is there a tool that can monitor Airport bandwidth or do I just have to stare at the blinky lights for a long time?

Maybe I should go draw chalk marks on the 1st Ave sidewalk... come on, people, I have half a megabit here going to waste!
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:59 AM on September 19, 2002

I put ph00dz question to a friend who is an expert in this kind o' thing (network telecoms future shit-type stuff) and his response was:

No and i don't really expect to.

It is media hype saying that a major amount of free internet access is gained in this rogue way. The majority of installations have the security features necessary to stop this but the odd one (usually with nothing to keep secret data wise) is left unsecured.

The reason Nokia publically are saying this is because they sell wLAN infrastructure and are wishing to play in the "mobile to wLAN handoff space" (i.e voice to data for same user). So it's part of their "your corporate data is secure with our kit" type of pitch.

The media are making it out to be an underground criminal cult executing a mass scam but, although technologically possible and a concern if you don't know your IT arse from your LAN elbow, it is just a load of scaremongering hype.

Remember WAP? just think about the media reaction to that and as our learned friends stateside would say, "Go Figure" ;o)'

So there you go...
posted by i_cola at 9:39 AM on September 19, 2002

i've been seeing "YOU ARE CONNECTED" stencils spraypainted on the streets around here (SF) and i *suspect* that they might be referring to wireless.

(there's one right outside the building that our offices are in, though i haven't verified whether there is a wireless connect out there. I've got a wireless card, but it's stuck in a tibook, which is notouriously bad for receiving signals. also: too lazy to take my laptop all the way to the front of the building to nose around)

anyone know any more details about this? I've tried googling for info on it but came up empty-handed.
posted by fishfucker at 9:40 AM on September 19, 2002

Mars: try getting a packet sniffer; if you're both on the same subnet (on the airport) you should be able to see the traffic going to other IPs. I don't know what sniffers there are on the mac side, but maybe someone could suggest one. (on the PC side, I really like Etherpeek.)
posted by fishfucker at 9:42 AM on September 19, 2002

i've been seeing "YOU ARE CONNECTED" stencils spraypainted on the streets

Heh. I just finished re-reading K. W. Jeter's Noir and now I can't read the word "connected" without mentally translating it to "fucked."
posted by kindall at 10:08 AM on September 19, 2002

It seems to me warchalking unsuspecting companies' LANs is similar to posting software vulnerabilities on the web for all to see. As in the software case, it would be nicer to tell the company privately about the flaw than to let everyone know, but it's better to let everyone know than to keep quiet about what you found. Public disclosure beats security through obscurity and all that.

So I would be inclined to say that the chalkers are doing a good thing (although they could be nicer about it), while people who use someone else's bandwidth without permission are stealing it. As XQUZYPHYR noted, entering someone's house without an invitation is a crime, even if the house is unlocked.
posted by Triplanetary at 11:11 AM on September 19, 2002

I sent an email to the BBC, basically, my argument hinges on my belief that most warchalking involves networks that want to be warchalked. The few examples we've seen here is that someone gets warchalked, they say 'oops, we are unsecure' and secure up, and go about their business. The warchalkers will then move on. Of course some intrepid wardrivers will attempt to crack security, etc, but that behaviour is already existant. Warchalking won't make that any worse, its just a different variety of whats already there. 99% of warchalkers will find a well secured network, and move on. The secured network in the industrial park isn't nearly as useful and cool as the local wireless club's network over the local coffee shop downtown. Those are the ones that the warchalkers will generally stick too, the people who WANT to share. Anyway, below is the text of the email I sent:

This is another case of a company fighting for people who don't want to be fought for. In many cases wireless networks are INTENTIONALLY left open, as a service to the community! Most major cities have wireless clubs that set up networks for public use in parks, apartment buildings, coffee shops, etc.

Nokia is branding warchalking as thievery, but they are disregarding the fact its not thievery to take something that people are giving away freely. If an individual company wants to protect their bandwidth, they should secure their network. The warchalkers will move on to people who willfully provide a service to their community.

Despite the rants and fears espoused by major companies, hacking and spamming has not, and will not, become a problem in the wireless community any more than it is a problem everywhere else. 99.99% of users will use it to check their email while having coffee, double check driving directions on the road, and other legit, low bandwidth uses.

Nokia needs to stop pretending that it has the best interests of all wireless internet users at heart, and realize that to some people, sharing isn't such a terrible thing.

posted by phidauex at 11:52 AM on September 19, 2002

Nokia warned that if too many warchalkers log on together, the whole network inside a company could slow down.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! the tragedy!!!!
posted by Satapher at 12:10 PM on September 19, 2002

Mars ---


Will monitor it for you. (Pressuming, of course, you're using Mac OS X)
posted by nathan_teske at 2:45 PM on September 19, 2002

Sure stealing bandwidth is a crime. Labeling as so won't make the problem go away [I'm too lazy to link to the millions of mp3 sharing threads, but you get the drift].

Anyone from your grandma to a Fortune 500 corp who deploys a WAP should lock it down if they don't want to share it. The leaving the door unlocked analogy XQUZYPHYR mentioned does apply here: It is a crime, but you're a dumbass if you don't lock your doors.

The revealing clothes analogy is is a red herring.
posted by birdherder at 4:25 PM on September 19, 2002

>By this logic, anyone who uses a cordless phone (also on 2.4Ghz) deserves to have their phone conversations listened to

PeteTheHair, you're damn right they do.

I exercise my (Canadian) right to listen to any airwaves I like whenever I'm bored. Once I even drove around between 1 and 4 am near apartment buildings (also exercising my right to be anywhere on public property I like, whenever I like) getting a kick out of all the weekend druggos/drunkards calling each other (not to mention the "my husband is a fat pig" style calls). Nothing kicks more ass than a dashmounted scanner -- OH YEAH.

>and is practically inviting me to make international calls on their bill

Very old portable phones usually could only switch between two channels and had ZERO security. If both your neighbours and you had phones, there was always the possibility that the wrong line would make a call.

Unregulated means you need to keep your stuff locked up. Well, maybe not in the UK, but over here, for sure you do.

>I'll make sure I tell the police that when I get picked up.

Go for it! Then again, I only bring my ShortWave and Aircraft radios to the UK...

Hopefully, though, you aren't (like about 30% of the calls I hear) making VMB calls / party-line calls (both of which require passcodes that are broadcast on air) or buying stuff with your credit card with that portable phone.

If people saw how easily, and clearly they could be picked up with a scanner, they'd make a break for their landline phone.

[I'd scan the police bands, but they're trunked now, and I just don't want to pump more cash into my cheap 'n nasty RadioShack rig -- besides, my next upgrade would be something that gets me cellphones, and a DVB receiver to go with the 10ft. BUD eyesore out back.]

Yeah, I know in the UK you're limited to just certain public airwaves. Too bad. We're slowly losing our rights here, too (a few months ago it was 100% legal to pirate American TV programming, now the supreme court has redefined the word authorized to mean authorized by anyone, ho-hum). I still in a quandry as to why your Queen can take over any radio station she likes in Canada, though. [ok, that was pretty ot].

So, the rule is -- if you don't want me to know it, don't say it on air, or lock it up nice and tight. Same thing goes for public networks on the airwaves -- lock 'em up, or take the consequences.
posted by shepd at 12:22 AM on September 20, 2002

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