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Hyperoptic Study Claims 39 Percent of Brits Try to “Steal” Neighbours WiFi

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 (10:01 am) - Score 1,902

Fibre optic ISP Hyperoptic has conducted a new study of 2,000 British adults that attempts to collate the sometimes poor performance of standard home broadband connections with the finding that 39% of respondents admitted to using their neighbours’ Internet connection by “stealing” their WiFi, which might be partly out of frustration with their own slow connections.

The survey, which attempts to investigate the relationships between neighbours and their networks, notes that 31% of respondents said they had been successful in accessing their neighbours Internet connection and this rises to 53% for those who live in London (note: 60% of Londoners said they’d attempted to “borrow” their neighbours wifi).

Apparently 29% of respondents admitted attempting access to protected WiFi networks by guessing the password, which again rises to 47% in London where Hyperoptic is most focused with their 1000Mbps FTTH/P/B broadband network. Most of the attempts involved using common cues such as dates of birth, pets’ names and even license plate numbers.

Dana Tobak, Managing Director of Hyperoptic, said:

It’s a shock to discover so many people admitting to ‘borrowing’ their neighbours’ broadband. ‘Stealing’ other people’s WiFi cannot be condoned and is highly likely to have a detrimental effect on the connection your neighbours are receiving – and paying for.

Many customers of standard broadband already battle with a slow and unreliable service that doesn’t allow everyone in the home to make the most of the internet at the same time, let alone carry unwanted surfers sneaking on to the network.

Hacking your neighbours’ WiFi isn’t just wrong, it simply won’t cut it. As life becomes increasingly digitised, the need for broadband reliability – and for speed – cannot be ignored. Hyperoptic gives all residents in a property the chance to enjoy uninterrupted gigabit speeds simultaneously, no ‘borrowing’ necessary, and ensures they can do so long term; future-proofing their homes to be compatible with the internet technologies yet to come.”

Successful attempts at WiFi ‘borrowing’ by region
• London – 53%
• North East – 42%
• Wales – 40%
• South East – 33%
• East Anglia – 32%
• South West – 28%
• Northern Ireland – 27%
• West Midlands – 26%
• East Midlands – 25%
• North West – 25%
• Yorkshire & Humber – 21%
• Scotland – 20%

Successful attempts at WiFi ‘borrowing’ by age
• 35 – 44 year olds – 43%
• 25 – 24 year olds – 42%
• 45 – 54 year olds – 35%
• 18 – 24 year olds 18%
• 55 & over – 10%

WiFi password guessing by region
• London – 47%
• North East – 48%
• Wales – 32%
• South East – 29%
• East Anglia – 28%
• West Midlands – 26%
• North West – 25%
• South West – 24%
• Yorkshire & Humber – 21%
• East Midlands – 20%
• Scotland – 19%
• Northern Ireland – 13%

WiFi password guessing by age
• 25 – 34 year olds – 49%
• 35 – 44 year olds – 40%
• 45 – 54 year olds – 34%
• 18 – 24 year olds – 6%
• 55+ year olds – 2%

It’s difficult to believe that 53% of people in London might have successfully logged on to their neighbours WiFi, although Hyperoptic are adamant that their study was conducted with a “nationally representative sample” and in fairness many people do run open WiFi networks without enabling the best WPA2 security.

But these days secure home WiFi networks do seem to be in the majority, which is largely thanks to improved industry practices (e.g. big broadband ISPs often set random wifi passwords by default instead of leaving this down to the end-user).

Elsewhere many of BT’s broadband customers have FON technology enabled (often without realising), which creates a public hotspot for other BTWiFi customers by using a small slice of the owners spare bandwidth and this might easily confuse the results. At the same time some neighbours also intentionally share access to their wifi networks.

On the other hand both of the above possibilities are partially countered by the respondents to Hyperoptic’s survey, many of whom admitted to guessing their neighbours WiFi password and this would obviously imply unauthorised access.

The legality of doing this is also very murky, especially with some hardware setup to automatically connect using open wifi networks. The UK’s Computer Misuse Act 1990 has a fairly broad interpretation, although if the access attempt was “unauthorised” (e.g. after attempting to guess a password) then that would probably be counted as illegal.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

    I think I’d characterise the findings as ludicrous, not to say self-serving as well.

  2. Avatar sentup.custard says:

    One of my neighbours has left his wi-fi completely open – no need to try and guess a password, you don’t need one. I don’t normally use wi-fi at all, but came across this when playing around with a laptop that I was mending for a friend.

    I guessed who it was by the SSID, which is the make of his car (not a common one), mentioned it to him, and he was already aware of the situation. He said that he wasn’t the slightest bit bothered as he has an “unlimited” package, and he knew that another neighbour using a rubbish bargain-basement ISP had an unreliable connection, so had just left it wide open for their benefit instead of protecting it and giving said other neighbour the password.

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      One big problem with leaving an open network is if somebody uses it for illegal purposes. As the primary way of tracing such usage is by IP address, you might have to do some explaining. A small risk maybe, but the consequences might be awkward.

      Note, not so much an issue with known public networks of those, like FON, where an account is needed.

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