1/3 Of Americans Admit To Mooching Off Neighbor’s Wi-Fi

None dare call it stealing:

It’s the digital equivalent of mooching a cup of sugar, only without asking. Some 32% of respondents to a recent national survey admitted borrowing a neighbor’s unencrypted Wi-Fi connection. That’s nearly double the 18% who said they borrowed Wi-Fi in a 2008 poll.

“The reality is that many consumers have not taken the steps to protect themselves,” said Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director at the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non-profit trade group that commissioned the surveys.

Sharing an open Wi-Fi hookup might seem neighborly. But a nosy neighbor could use eavesdropping software to monitor your online haunts. A free, easy-to-use eavesdropping tool called Firesheep has been downloaded more than 1 million times since last year.

“With Firesheep, almost anyone can effectively hack into your Facebook, Twitter and other accounts,” says Randy Abrams, director of technical education at anti-virus firm ESET. “Almost anyone has the skill to use Firesheep to be a nosy neighbor.”

You can repel moochers and snoopers by taking a few simple steps while configuring your wireless network. “But much like the seat belts in your car, you won’t get protected unless you use it,” Davis-Felner says.

So, secure your networks people !

Via Twitter

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Contracts says:

    1/3 of Americans live next door to NY Times contributors?

  2. Franklin says:

    It’s situations like this that call for different levels of fault assignment. Yes, it’s their fault for stealing Wi-Fi. But it’s the neighbor’s fault for not securing it.

  3. Herb says:

    Mooching…a much better term than stealing. You can’t steal an unsecured wi-fi signal. You can only mooch it.

  4. Brett says:

    It’s all supposedly “fun” and “mooching” until somebody gets in trouble because a moocher was using their wi-fi to download child pornography or stolen material.

    Remember, people – secure your wi-fi networks. And by “secure”, I mean WPA at a minimum – WEP is worthless. There are other steps you can do, but simply having a WPA-secured home network will probably discourage virtually all potential moochers, who will simply move on to try and find a unprotected network.

  5. Michael says:

    Better yet, do this: http://www.ex-parrot.com/pete/upside-down-ternet.html

    I’m also betting that almost all of that 1/3 of Americans didn’t encrypt their traffic, giving the WiFi owner complete access to every username and password they transmitted. Seriously, how do people use public WiFi without an encrypted tunnel?

  6. Trumwill says:

    Though I was among those that were pretty critical of the moocher from the article in the previous OTB post, I think that there is a difference between someone that mooches when their own connection is out or when they’re out-of-pocket and someone that refuses to pay for the Internet because some neighbor (probably) doesn’t know how to set up his wireless router or is lazy.

  7. Franklin says:

    It has just occurred to me that the WiFi owner could get in a bit of trouble with their ISP. I assume there’s something in their contract that prevents them from intentionally sharing their connection with neighbors. And leaving your WiFi unprotected could be seen as intentional.