Dutch Court Rules Wi-Fi Hacking Legal In Holland

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Interesting case and a very interesting interpretation of the laws of Holland which lead to this decision which means the Dutch can hack in Wireless routers legally.

We published a story about the ethics of jacking open Wi-Fi connections way back in 2006, when a supposed ethics expert said it was ok: Jacking Wifi is ‘OK’ say Ethics Expert.

The main differentiation being that a router isn’t a computer and as long as the intruder doesn’t access any of the computers on the internal network – he’s within the law.

A Dutch court has ruled that hacking into Wi-Fi connections is not a crime providing any connected computers remain untouched. However Wi-Fi freeloaders would still lay themselves open to civil proceedings.

The unusual ruling came in the case of a student who threatened a shooting rampage against staff at students at Maerlant College in The Hague. The threat was posted on 4chan, the notoriously anarchic internet image board, after the student broke into a secure Wi-Fi connection. The unnamed student was caught and convicted of posting the message but acquitted on the hacking charge. The miscreant was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

It seems like somehow 4chan was involved in this case and perhaps the Anonymous bunch too.

The interesting part for me is their definition of a computer and the part where the router falls down, they define it as a machine involved in the “storage, processing and transmission of data”. That sounds like a definition of a router to me, but for them – the router only stores the data in a transient matter as long as it needs to carry out its current task.


Reports are vague on how the student hacker was tracked down, but it may well be that the denizens of 4chan got the ball rolling by reporting the threats to police, something that happened in a similar school massacre threat case in Michigan back in February.

The Netherlands has a computer hacking law that dates from the early 1990s and defines a computer as a machine involved in the “storage, processing and transmission of data”. Since a router is not used to store data, a judge reasoned, it fails to qualify as a computer – and thus the computer hacking law isn’t applicable. The ruling, which surprised legal observers in The Netherlands, means that piggy-backing (or leeching) open wireless networks is not a crime: though civil proceedings against leechers would still be possible, so a free-for-all is unlikely.

Most countries have laws the apply to hacking into computer networks as well as computers but not, it would seem, The Netherlands. The Dutch attorney general has decided to appeal the verdict in the case, a process that may take several months.

Of course any wannabe Wi-Fi hackers in Holland are still open to civil proceedings from jacking connections, that’s if the person can show some negative effect to their livelihood or business.

And yah I also find it odd that the Dutch laws only cover computers and not networks or networking equipment. It means you’re pretty much open to hack anything you like as long as it’s not a computer (printers, telephones, faxes, routers, firewalls, proxies etc).

Source: The Register

Posted in: Legal Issues, Wireless Hacking

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2 Responses to Dutch Court Rules Wi-Fi Hacking Legal In Holland

  1. isa March 22, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    everything is hackable now..except 4 nasa..lets change back to wire networking..

  2. inzel March 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    Doesnt really say anything because you can still get in trouble in a civil suit.