When you open your phone, laptop, tablet, e-reader, or any other device that connects to the internet, you might see a rainbow-shaped icon indicating that a wireless network is nearby.
In many instances, a second icon comes just to the left of the Wi-Fi symbol: a padlock showing that the network is password protected and inaccessible. Once in a while, a network won’t be encrypted, which means you can access that Wi-Fi without a password to check your email, social media account, or watch a video. However, before clicking on that unprotected network name, know that accessing someone else’s Wi-Fi without their consent – “piggybacking” – is illegal.
Federal Piggybacking Laws
Federal laws on Wi-Fi piggybacking are a little murky. The only regulation against this offense is found under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was enacted in the early ‘80s – long before Wi-Fi was around. Section 1030(a)(2) of this act makes it a crime to knowingly access a computer, without authorization, to obtain information. Although the law specifies “computer,” courts have extended this definition to include wireless networks. Violations are charged as felonies.
Is Piggybacking Illegal?
While federal laws don’t specifically address Wi-Fi piggybacking, Texas state law does. Under Texas Penal Code §33.02, it is illegal to “knowingly access a computer, computer network, or computer system without the effective consent of the owner.” A violation under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.
If charged with a Class B misdemeanor, you could face 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. A piggybacking offense could be charged as a felony if you were convicted two or more times under this law, or if the government or a critical institution owned the system you accessed.
Call The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. for a Free Case Evaluation
If you were accused of Wi-Fi piggybacking, or another computer crime, you can be confident our attorneys at The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. will provide the legal help you need. When you retain the services of our team, we will focus on building a solid legal strategy on your behalf and fighting to protect your rights and freedoms.
Speak with one of our lawyers by calling us at (979) 773-7028 or schedule a case evaluation online.