Canadian Wardriving Law

Note: This essay is my own personal opinions about the laws in Canada that cover the act of Wardriving. They should not be taken as legal advice in any way. It's just wnat I've found and could be handy reference for others, that's why I'm sharing.
The ISM band of radio in Canada is covered by the 'Radio communication act. This act sets out the regulations for communicating in various areas of the spectrum. In general Canadian regulation and American FCC regulation and allocations are nearly identical, however wording of restrictions can be quite drastically different. I am not a lawyer, however being very familiar with the technical aspects of wardriving and spending way to much time reading legal opinions and regulations I feel confident that (as far as the radio communication act) wardriving is quite legal in Canada and is in a the legal 'white area' In terms of Wardriving, section 9 of the Radio Communication Act seems to be the most relevant section.

9. (1) No person shall(b)
without lawful excuse, interfere with or obstruct any radio communication;
(c) decode an encrypted subscription programming signal or encrypted network feed otherwise than under and in accordance with an authorization from the lawful distributor of the signal or feed;
(d) operate a radio apparatus so as to receive an encrypted subscription programming signal or encrypted network feed that has been decoded in contravention of paragraph (c); or Prohibition(1.1) Except as prescribed, no person shall make use of or divulge a radio-based telephone communication(a) if the originator of the communication or the person intended by the originator of the communication to receive it was in Canada when the communication was made; and(b) unless the originator, or the person intended by the originator to receive the communication consents to the use or divulgence.(2) Except as prescribed, no person shall intercept and make use of, or intercept and divulge, any radio communication, except as permitted by the originator of the communication or the person intended by the originator of the communication to receive it.


In more laymans terms:

Section (9.1b) explains that .you shalt not screw with any radio communications.. This is a no-brainer. This means that when wardriving, we should be doing things as passively as possible and causing disruption (on a radio level) is no allowed. There should be no reason to disrupt communications unless we're doing something bad anyways.

Section (9.1c&d) explain that if there is a signal that is encrypted (i.e. WEP) and you are not the intended recipient, you shouldn't be decoding it. It's encrypted for a reason (like keeping prying eyes out), again there should be no reason that we would decrypt the packet. However, in Wardriving, the relevant information we are collecting, is in the headers of the 802.11x frames and are in plain text, so we aren't having to decode the encrypted portion of the packet to do what we need to do. Originally this provision was meant to cover scrambled pay tv services, but could be extended to any encrypted/encoded signals.

Section (9.1.1) covers receiving of signals. In Canada we took a bit more of a sane approach to cell phone scanners and eavesdropping on cell conversations back in the analog cell phone days. The rule makers knew that the technology existed for people to listen to the frequencies of analog cell phones, so rather than trying to jam the genie back in the bottle and declare a technology illegal, it is only illegal to divulge the contents of a conversation that you may eavesdrop on.

The last paragraph (Section 9.1.2a) has an important passage . intercept and make use of, or intercept and divulge.. We can intercept signal and view it for our own amusement, but we cannot act upon any information we might see in the communication, nor can we divulge the information to anyone else. Collecting a Kismet Dump file is not illegal in Canada, provided you don't share it with anyone or use the information for 'gain' of any sort (industrial espionage, etc).

As for sharing location and SSID information, It's a bit of a legal grey area. It is not necessarily 'communication' since locating the source of an RF transmission is not communication and one could likely argue that the SSID broadcast is public information because the unit is operating as designed to 'broadcast' it's presence to anyone within range making anyone an 'intended recipient'.

On a pure RF level, since we are in the ISM band we have as much right to be there as anyone else. This is provided we follow normal rules about how much transmit power we have and that we do not cause interference and we must accept any interference, etc. This means that in the event we accidentally setup an AP on the same channel as another network, no-one can legally complain (transmit power violations not withstanding). While not really an issue with wardriving, it covers the argument that we might be disrupting networks as we go by.

Other legal considerations:

Local regulations and law enforcement mood vary region to region regarding having an operating laptop in view of the driver. Generally for safety thought, it's a good idea to at least keep it closed or have a blanking screen saver.

Purely wardriving without connecting to any networks appears to be quite legal. The instant you establish a connection (though the definition of 'connection' has not been defined in the courts in Canada), you leave the radio regulatory domain and are now subject to criminal law.

In Canada, it can be safely assumed that benign wardriving is quite legal under existing regulations. It's quite clear that on a radio level, wardriving is well covered by the radio communications act with only a few (sane) restrictions.

I am not a lawyer, so there may be conflicting laws or regulations somewhere that I have not found, however based on these regulations, It's a safe interpretation.


Legal source:

Some Students from The University of Saskatoon did a great website about the Legality and Ethics of wardriving. Highly recommended reading: Here is the site
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