Monday, June 14, 2010

Wardriving Must be Made Illegal Suggests Praveen Dalal

Shayam Prasad

A very interesting, though controversial, question is whether wardriving is legal or illegal to perform? Wardriving is the act of searching for wireless networks by a person in a moving vehicle, using a laptop, portable computer or PDA.

There are no laws that specifically prohibit or allow wardriving. Google is in news for acquiring data from wireless networks through measures that go well beyond mere wardriving. This has raised many eyebrows and presently many have suggested of taking a criminal action against Google. So what is the legal status of wardriving exercise?

According to Praveen Dalal, Managing Partner of Perry4Law and leading techno-legal and cyber forensics expert of India, legality of wardriving is a complicated issue and there is no uniformity regarding the same. In fact we do not have legal provisions regarding wardriving in any part of the World. Although wardriving may not be an offence, yet if a person actually accesses the concerned network, this amounts to unauthorised access and is a punishable offence. As per news sources, the only exception seems to be Finland that has recently allowed the use of an unsecured wireless networks, informs Dalal.

So where does Google’s episode fits in this scenario? Google has undoubtedly done far beyond mere wardriving, says Dalal. I have personally analysed the report prepared by the internal audit company appointed by Google, and it shows something more than mere wardriving. In fact the report is just a limited technical analysis and a techno-legal analysis would bring more facts into limelight, says Dalal.

The inability to provide clear provisions mentioning the legality or illegality of wardriving is the real problem and time has come to expressly declare it either legal or illegal, suggests Dalal. In my personal opinion, wardriving should be made a punishable offence if it is accompanied by a criminal or malicious intent, opines Dalal.

The present events would determine the fate of wardriving but what is obvious is that technology enthusiastics would prefer to consider it to be legal whereas privacy advocates and law making authorities of various nations may vote in favour of its illegality.