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I don't have a wireless setup, so this question isn't directly related to me. I'm just curious.

Let's say someone had an unprotected wireless setup and someone else was using it to access the internet to do illegal things. Can authorities find that person, or would all tracks be pointed back to the owner of the network?

For example colleges. When students get on a university's wireless campus, how is it that the RIAA finds who is downloading music? Do universities require you to log in to use the wireless (or wired) network? If so, I can then understand how they are found.

But I don't see any plausible way of catching a wardriving punk who finds someone's open network.

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Because the source address of the packets is rewritten by the NAT software on the router as packets pass through destined for the WAN side of it there is no way for anyone on the WAN side of the router (i.e. the "authorities") to trace the cause of the downloading. All they see is the WAN IP and Mac address of the router.

My university requires you to register your laptop and login to use the network. This means that they have your mac address on file and most likely log connections. All web traffic /should/ be through the university proxy and every request to that is logged.

For a home user, their router (if it is any good) should list the Mac addresses of devices connected to it. Because the Mac address is unique per device it is technically possible to track down the offender. However, keep in mind that it is very easy to spoof a Mac address. I am also sceptical if the "authorities" would give the proverbial rats bottom about someone using your network whether it's protected or not.

If you're going to use a wireless network, make it secure. Definately use the most up to date encryption standard availiable at the time (currently WPA2), use Mac address filtering on top of that for a tiny bit of added security (not much) and DON'T turn SSID broadcast off on the router. This is more dangerous than keeping it on.


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Many coffee shops, hotels, etc... have wireless for their customers and nowadays many of those are open.

All anyone wanting to do illegal things needs to drive by for a while to get a connection.

I agree that you might want keep your personal wireless network private/key encoded.

Personally, I have so many guests/family in and out I leave mine wide open.

I'm in a fairly private community so "drive by" is not a big issue.

What I do is look at the DHCP Client's Table in my router from time to time (e.g. daily) to see who has been using the connection.

If I see a "foreign" computer connecting (hasn't happened so far) I'll turn off the router and encrypt for a while.

To get back to your original question...

An open router can let illegal traffic pass through it.

You are not libel for this unauthorized traffic.

Routers can store both IP addresses (not very easy to trace and often reused) AND MAC (Media Access Contol) addresses (which are typically computer/device specific so far, and not reused).

IP addresses will lead to the network owner.

MAC traces will lead to a particular machine (or card).


Sorry Phil,

I scrolled past your same explaination.

Edited by CurlingSteve
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