My laptop has been picking up my neighbour's Netgear connection.

So far, I can go on the internet, receive emails, but I can't send any. I get an "Administrative prohibition 550".
Is it something my neighbour could have configured specifically ? Does Netgear allows you to do that ? I may go and have a chat with him but it would be great if I understood what is happening and what he may have done before I meet him (and beg...) Thanks

I would say that the proper etiquette here is to go over and introduce yourself and let the neighbor know that his network is available to the public. Remember that when you are on the net, he is losing bandwidth...if he doesn´t mind, fine.


To answer your question Technically:

Email recipt (your laptop going to get it) is handled on TCP/IP Port 110... if you are using what is called a POP3 email server. Usually, those ports are open all around to go and get email.

Email transmission (your laptop sending it) is handled on TCP/IP Port 25, and with the advent of spam and the technical efforts to control it, there are a lot of locked down ports, and IP number checkings that occur before it is deemed that the email is trusted to be sent.

As many can tell, these efforts are fruitless, as spam keeps on getting more and more, and legitimate uses of email servers have been stomped out.

Technically, you will need to find the legitimate email server for the network he is on.

Now, let's work with the Political and Social answer:

You are stealing. Either he or his ISP could come after you for theft of information. You are coming in on his network, and unfirewalled, and who knows what else he is exposing to you. I would also argue that since you know that you are doing this that it is a poor reflection of your character to willingly use his connection and not seek permission.

Go have a talk with him. He might ask you to help defray the costs, or you might end up cutting his grass or something along those lines. Do not try to work around the situation, as if he does catch you, he might not be kind and might raise holy hell. You have to be mature and seek his permission. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.


I guess I should have been more forceful, Christian, thanks for saying it like it is...

Hello my righteous friends,

thank you for your answers.

The only thing I can say I now understand for certain is that the reason I couldn't send emails was because I am using someone else's network.

As for stealing.... Information ? What information. I must tell you that as far as I am concerned, my laptop is just a cool looking and sophisticated type-writer, on which I can also play spider soliters during breaks. My technological abilities do not allow me to go much further than that.

You say that I make my neighbour - or myself ? - vulnerable and mention being unfirewalled. That's worrying. My laptop tells me that I am firewalled. How using his connection could allow him to go through my firewall or me though his ? Also, I know nothing about his network, what's on it, etc. All I know is that at start-up, my computer automatically looks for a signal and connects using Netgear. That is ALL the info that is made available to me.

It is true however that when I click on the little icon on the bar at the bottom right corner of my screen, it tells me that this is an unsecured connection. Is that something to worry about ?

And by the way, this picking of a signal is extremely common here in London at least. Friends tell me they have the same experiences.

And as for paying my connection, I do already. I have Wanadoo broadband which is actually faster than this Netgear wireless picked up by my laptop.

I would like to access my broadband provider wirelessly now. So that's another question :

How do I go about that ? What's the piece of hardware I need to buy ? I rang Dell from whom I bought this laptop and I got some gobbledigook answers I am afraid. Is it expensive ?



Hi Lucile,

We´re not picking on you, it´s just that these forums point out to anyone that´s reading them what is happening and, therefore, we´re just stating our opinion for others that see the posts. I think I see now what you are saying - you are getting a signon from his network through no fault of your own?

So, it´s good that you have your own connection but that doesn´t make it right to sign on to a network that´s not yours. It´s kind of like taking his newspaper in the morning, reading it, and then returning it before he wakes up, even though you take a different newspaper of your own. If he knew that you were doing it, there would be no problem...

I don´t think Christian meant his comments as an accusation, just as a statement of fact. The fact that you didn´t know you were doing something less than honest is a mitigating factor. One might argue that it´s his fault for having a network that advertises to anyone out there that it´s available and then signs you on without any intervention from you, if that´s what is happening.

I see two ways of handling this. 1) Tell the neighbor what is going on and ask him what he wants you to do - maybe he will have no problem with it and say use it. 2) Turn off your wireless access when you are at home, you don´t need it as you have your own connection.

In any case, this person needs to set up some security on his wireless network before someone malicious gets in there and start messing around with his system. He´s actually lucky you are there to straighten him out...:)

Lucile --

Fortunately for you, squatting in the UK is not technically illegal, for now. However, ethically, it is wrong. You are using someone else's service that they are paying for. Is it right to get up at 4 am and read someone's paper before they get up? It may not really be that big of a deal, but how would you feel if you were paying for it and you found out that someone else was using it so they wouldn't have to pay?

Now since you are already paying for broadband, and you want to set up your own connection, that's pretty easy. Get yourself a Linksys WRT54G, follow the monkey sheets and you should be good to go. It's really pretty easy.


whatever it is worth the general term is "theft of service" which in laymans terms means it is nothing you can touch with your hands but it has value to its "owner."

Just incase that keeps things clearer in the future.

True, however, in the UK, there is no law goeverning it.

I think you folks are being a bit hard on Lucille. I work with lots of customers who don't bother to configure their wireless access points properly with a network SSID and encryption. There is no reason for them to worry about such complications -- the access points they buy are literally plug and play. So too is the computer.

Lucille's computer probably runs Windows XP. XP will, by default, search out the strongest wireless signal and connect to it.

From her perspective this is what her computer is doing and it works for her, so what is wrong with it? Possibly dozens of others are doing the same thing. I can tell you that coffee shops like Coffee Republic, in the UK, charge piratical rates for wifi airtime: 4.50 an hour (in pounds sterling, which is worth more than the US dollar.) I know this because that's what I paid recently. Wireless access points in the UK home seem fairly rare over there; my site scans came up empty. Anyone running an open, unencrypted access point there may well be inviting wifi-enabled citizens to connect freely.

So, I think it might be better to turn down the harsh tone. She asked a question. There was no need to blast her; diplomacy is much more desirable and effective than vinegar in this case.



I also have the same problem as Lucile. I would like to talk to my neighbour that has the unsecured network but I have so many neighbours because I am surrounded by apartments. Is there a way to know what neighbour owns netgear connection? if not, is asking all my neighbors the only way to know? I would like to share expenses is that's possible. I discovered the open connection last monday.

Juanito, I don't think you'll be able to locate who, exactly, you are connecting to unless all your neighbors are using different SSIDs. I bet they are not, because most people just plug the equipment in, and if it starts to work for them, they happily use it. They will not try to "configure" the software that runs the equipment further. Probably, you are connecting to the person who offers the strongest signal strength. That is probably the person who is closest to you physically. But, weather conditions can change all that. You could connect to someone far away if the weather is right for it. It is very hard to know for sure, unless you know the SSID which is also called the "network name" or "network", and if every SSID is different in the neighborhood. Why not just stay quiet about it, say nothing, because I think some people could take advantage of you.

Bob Cochran

I think everyone is missing a very important point. If you are using an unknown connection, you can never do anything secure on it. If you connect through someone else's equipment, they could be logging everything you do. It wouldn't be too hard for someone to lift a few passwords and other sensitive information from the data stream. Everyone needs to keep in mind this simple rule of thumb: "If you don't know the source of the connection, assume that it is 100% insecure."

Juanito, I would just get a connection of your own. Wireless routers are very inexpensive these days. You can get a high-speed wireless router for less than $50 if you shop around. I would recommend checking out NewEgg (they are US-only though). Just be sure to secure your connection after you set up the router. Here are a few tips that will help you secure your wireless network. Don't disable the SSID broadcast though. Everyone recommends that you do, but if you do, Windows XP won't find the network.

You are wrong about some of your premises. First of all, all https web connections which are backed with a security certificate are in fact encrypted and secure. That is because the browser encrypts transactions to the public key of the target server. It doesn't matter if the wireless encryption itself is insecure; an https connection is always secure, regardless of the medium.

Likewise, encrypted emails, ssh (secure shell), scp (secure copy), and other forms of secure traffic are always encrypted in one manner or another. It doesn't matter what the physical transport medium is.

Unencrypted (cleartext) traffic can be seen over the internet all the time, whether or not a wireless connection is used. A datagram sent over a wired connection does not guarantee privacy because the datagram is bounced from point to point over the Internet, in cleartext. Anyone with a packet sniffer can snoop. Anyone!

The use of WEP, WPA, or WPA2 in wireless communications is more to protect your wireless connection from being used by rogue clients -- freeloaders. It is used only between wireless devices. For that reason it has limited utility. Datagrams are decrypted at the recieving end and treated as cleartext. The datagram will be decrypted before it is routed on the public Internet, and will travel it in cleartext. That is different from an https, encrypted datagram which does travel the internet encrypted until the target server/client decrypts the datagram.

You are also incorrect that Windows will not find a wireless network that is not broadcasting the SSID. It will; you just need to explicitly tell Windows the SSID you want. I routinely connect wireless Windows XP and Windows 98 devices to networks where SSID broadcasting is disabled.
Turning off SSID broadcasting will discourage the freeloaders who are looking for easily caught wireless connections. However, a determined person can simply use AirSnort to find the SSID of the network. There are lots of determined people out there. These folks are the ones you want to discourage by using WEP, WPA, or WPA2 to encrypt datagrams sent over the network.

That's interesting that you got XP to work with SSID turned off. I tried for a few hours to get one of my machines to find my router with the SSID broadcast turned off (even when I explicitly defined the SSID). I found a page on that indicated that it had to be on in order to connect. I wish I could find that page again.

As for the encryption keys, you're correct. My point is that a person could log any data that goes through their connection. Not everyone knows what is secure and what is not. Most people wouldn't know a forged SSL certificate even if their browser gave them twenty dialog boxes that warned them that they shouldn't click "OK". There is also a possibility that the conneciton will have false DNS responses that point to fake sites. I know that the odds of this occuring are extremely remote, but they are possible. The fact is that people can very convincingly lie to you and your computer if they control the data flow. I know if I was a malicious person, I could cause all sorts of problems with everyone who tried to freeload off of me.

With some wifi radios, you cannot configure the network parameters using Windows XP's built in configuration utility. Instead, you use the client software that comes with the hardware for configuration. This is true of some Broadcom wifi packages. I've never had a problem connecting any hardware (Broadcom, Atheros, Prism54 etc chipsets) solely because the SSID was turned off. In fact turning it off is a routine step for me. You can learn more about doing wireless configuration by reading Jeff Duntemann's Wifi Guide (2nd Edition). It is a little dated now and the author is really preachy and has a tone that can turn you off fast. But the book is worth reading.