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Police collar kid for Wi-Fi pinching

Teen arrested for camping on next door's net

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Exclusive Lincolnshire police have arrested a 16-year-old suspected of hacking into next door's Wi-Fi after his neighbour complained the connection was running a bit slow.

Police arrived at the lad's house after nine o'clock on Sunday October 5, and arrested him under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. The youngster was then questioned until quarter to twelve, at which point his father refused a police caution. Ten days later a letter was pushed through the boy's door cancelling his bail and stating that no additional action would be taken. There was no further explanation, leading the father to file a complaint for unlawful arrest and detention.

The lad in question got himself a Wi-Fi-equipped laptop back in April, and uses other Wi-Fi equipment on his own network, but admits he might have accidentally clicked on the wrong connection when logging on. A quick look around reveals seven networks in the area, two of which remain unsecured even now.

Apparently the neighbour has had some trouble getting online lately, and a friend noticed the neighbour's boy's laptop had been allocated an IP address by the DHCP server - the lad isn't technically up to changing his computer's name, which had been set up by his dad to be his own.

The friend reckoned the boy not only hacked the access point, but also "removed the encryption" protecting the connection - though why a hacker would want to remove a cracked encryption isn't clear.

If the network was hacked then a crime has been committed, but our friends over at Out-Law.com confirm that connecting to the wrong network by mistake is not a crime, and the fact that the lad had his own Wi-Fi connection available would lend credence to that argument.

It would be plausible that the neighbour's friend, trying to explain the outages in connectivity, noticed the DHCP allocation and so assumed hacking activity, assuming that any lack of security must be attributable to a 'hacker' disabling it.

Police sources tell us that normal procedure would be to check in with their own Computer Crime unit, before contacting the boy's parents to arrange an interview if a crime had been committed.

But in this instance, the coppers decided to turn up on a Sunday night, arrest the boy and offer him a formal caution - providing grounds for a complaint of unlawful arrest and detention given his age.

The youngster's father has now filed an official complaint and sent the laptop off for forensic analysis. He's also waiting for copies of the complainant's statements, so he can see exactly what the neighbour and his friend told police before they decided on the Sunday night raid. ®

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