Friday Feast #37: Wireless Networking and Wardrivers

Last year I networked my office computers with wired/wireless capability. I used a wired/wireless approach in part to live my dream of using my laptop to work outside on my patio instead of being locked to my office desk inside. Until the other day’s local news report on wardrivers I hadn’t paid much attention to wireless networking vulnerabilities. After all, my network is secure with a router, firewall, and password-only access, right? Well, after that report I took a second look at all my settings and read more about wireless networking security just to be sure.

While I was aware of potential hackers with wireless networking, I only recently learned that people called “wardrivers” actually drive around and seek out available wireless networking signals. They know that many people don’t turn on their equipment’s security features and people typically use the default passwords that come with the wireless networking equipment. Bingo—they’re in and using your wireless Internet access.

Many wardrivers are just looking for Internet access to check their email, such as while they’re traveling, and have no intention of delving into your personal information or computers. However, if they can access your wireless network, that typically means others can access the computers on your network, too, including the potential to use your credit card numbers and other confidential information, or perhaps they’d decide to delete some or all of your files and programs. Not a fun thought.

Warchalking is also on the rise. Warchalking is the use of symbols on walls or sidewalks to mark nearby wireless access. Legal or not? The warchalking site gives its opinion.

While I think wireless networking is fantastic, I also think it’s important to make sure no one can access your network unless it’s OK with you. A few security measures can help a little or a lot, including simple things like turning on your security settings, replacing default settings with harder-to-crack names and passwords, using encryption, and more. I’ve listed some helpful articles below about wardriving, warchalking, and network security pointers.

Protecting Your Network

More Wardriving, Warchalking Stories

  • Driveby Hacking on the Go
    By Jacqueline Emigh, IT Management.
  • Mapping the Lack of Security
    This article tells about how wide open many wireless networks are, and wardrivers are mapping them out, coined “warchalking”.... but they have rules about it, too.
    By Eric Griffith, 802.11 Planet, October 25, 2002.
  • Unguarded wireless networks a snap for 'stumbling'
    Article about wide open unsecured networks, vulnerabilities, and simple measures to secure your networks.
    by Bradley J. Fikes, North County Times, January 12, 2003.
  • Wireless WarDrive: Wee Bit of Fun
    Wardriving in Manhattan—not able to find a bathroom but easily finding hundreds of wireless access points. Article on ethical wardriving, security or lack thereof, and wide open unsecured networks.
    Wired News, October, 2002
  • Wi-Fi Caravan Hits the Road
    An adventure in wardriving from Portland to San Francisco.
    By Ed Sutherland, 802.11 Planet, Feb. 20, 2003.
  • Wi-Fi Users: Chalk This Way
    Article about warchalking, what it is, how it’s used, and how it started. By Paul Botin, Wired News, July 03, 2002.
  • Worldwide Wardriving Results
    Warchalking at its prime—a website devoted to warchalking, with maps to show for it. Amazing.

Other Tools

Shields Up! is a terrific little online tool that checks your Internet connection security and connectable listening Internet ports. This tool tells you what, if any, vulnerabilities exist and what you can do about them.


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Categories: Friday Feast, Technology, Wireless

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