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Cracking an encrypted WiFi connection is not an offence says Dutch court

21 March 2011

A Dutch court has caused a stir in legal and security circles with a ruling that it is not a criminal offence to crack into an encrypted WiFi connection. The case will go to appeal in the Dutch High Court, however, Infosecurity understands.

According to the Slashdot newswire, the essence of the case centres on the fact that a router is not defined as a computer and therefore existing legislation designed to prevent computer hacking does not appear to apply.

"Under Dutch law, breaking into a computer is forbidden. A computer in The Netherlands is defined as a machine that is used for three things: the storage, processing and transmission of data. A router can therefore not be described as a computer because it is only used to transfer or process data and not for storage", says the newswire.

Infosecurity notes the case has drawn a lot of comment, mainly since the court concluded that hacking a device that is not a computer - as defined by current Dutch law - and cannot therefore be prosecuted.

Some experts have suggested that loophole will result in a change in Dutch law on the subject, which is why the Dutch Attorney General has taken the decision to appeal the verdict.

According to the PCWorld newswire, meanwhile, the ruling is linked to a case of a student who threatened to shoot down everyone at the Maerlant College in The Hague, a high school.

"[The student] posted a threat on the internet message board using a WiFi connection that he broke into. The student was convicted for posting the message and sentenced to 20 hours of community service, but he was acquitted of the WiFi hacking charges", says the newswire.

The newswire quotes a criminal lawyer, Mathieu van Linde of Blokzijl Advocaten, as saying that, if a secure WiFi connection is hacked or an open network is used for WiFi leeching, the action could be tried under civil law.

"The ruling led to some controversy in The Netherlands. Van Linde found the verdict `remarkable.' He reckoned that most people from The Netherlands assume hacking a WiFi network is illegal", adds the newswire.

This article is featured in:
Compliance and Policy  •  Wireless and Mobile Security


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