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Spot a Hotspot
There are many ways to locate a wireless hotspot. In smaller locations such as Cafes, you'll often see a sign in the window declaring that WiFi is available on the premises. But what if you're out and about, armed with a portable computer and can't wait to login and check the latest sports results, or see whether a deal on offer in a shop can be bettered online.
What you need is a WiFi Dectector. These handy gadgets scan your immediate surroundings (usually up to about 100 meters) at the press of a button and indicate whether a hotspot is available.
The Kensington WiFi Hotspot Finder costs about £18 and filters out other conflicting wireless signals such as Bluetooth. If it indicates that a network is available you can start up your computer and connect it.
It's important to remember the law when looking for hotspots, however. Leet's say yor notebook PC or hotspot finder is scanning for available wireless networks and you come across one, your neighbour's perhaps that not been secured. You might be tempted to use it to access the internet but if you do so without permission, you'll have broken the law !!
It's no different to walking into someone's house because they had locked their door. You might argue that there's nothing there to steal. In July 2005 Gregory Straszkiewicz was charged under the Communications Act 2003 for dishonestly obtaining an electronics communication service after he was caught attempting to connect to a private WiFi network several times.
He was fined £500, his PC was confiscated and received a 12 month conditional discharge. Earlier this year two people in Redditch, Worcestershire, were cautioned for using other people's WiFi without permission.
There didn't appear to be any malicious intent on the part of these people caught red handed. And no doubt you don't intend to steal your neighbour's data in order to commit other offences. But in fact could commit any number of offences.
For example, if the owner of the connection pays an ISP for the amount of data transferred, and you use some of their quota, it could be argued you have stolen a volume of data. The law could decide you have commited the act 'permanently to deprive' the rightful owner of the ability to transfer that data for their own use.
Less likely, but still possible, the police have said that using somebody else's WiFi could result in a sentence of up to five years in jail under the UK's Computer Misuse Act. That's a high price to pay for a little free broadband usage.
So, if you do spot an unsecured network belonging to a neighbour, don't take it as an invitation to surf. Pop round and warn them of the dangers they face. Another way to find a hotspot is through a portal, a website that brings together records of hotspot locations, usually with a facility to search by town name or postcode.
This is a great way to find a mobile internet connection in advance, so you can store the locations in a text document on your PC and look up the precise location when you get there.
Some good examples include.....
My Hotspots - www.myhotspots.co.uk
Total Hotspots - www.totalhotspots.com
Freedom 2 Surf - www.freedom2surf.net/wifi
The Cloud - www.thecloud.net