And the MAC address is only dangerous if it is publicly known. Once you drive away, how will they trace it to your system? IF you have a DELL system or something that comes preshipped with a card, they probably have the MAC address catalogues in their database. But over the shelf, is little risk.
That's what I would think. I mean, if some people don't know enough to turn on WEP and they use their street address for their SSID, then I doubt they would even know what a MAC address is let alone look to see if there is a foreign address on their network. But, I could be wrong.
The thought of a computer company having a huge database of the MAC address of factory installed cards that they could cross reference with serial number and owner information is a little scary and would make me think twice before buying a machine with a preinstalled card.
Butn then again, even if the card was preinstalled with the computer, it's nothing to swap out that card with another one with a new MAC Address. My card was an add on (paid for in cash, natch) so I can't imaging that there would be much chance of a MAC Address being traced to me. But you've all given me some good info to digest.
I have to correct my first post. It wasn't Sam's Club that I found the open network that I got onto, it was BJ's Wholesale Club. For some reson I always get the two confused. Sam's Club had big signs in their parking lot indicating there were security cameras in use. Even though there was on open network there, I just kept on driving. It was right next door to the COMPOOSA so I stopped there.
A couple of the APs I stumbled on indicated the vendor as Agere-Lucent. Even though I could apparently hop onto these networks, these were the only places I couldn't get Internet access with. Any clues why? Might they be internal office networks with no direct oustide access? One was in an small industrial park, so I'm wondering if that one was some sort if inter-building file sharing network.