Delaware River

Wardrivers and the reason you need the best wi-fi security mode
John's article on using inSSIDer to get info about neighboring networks

Wikipedia's excellent article on wardriving

An independent web site with everything you need to get started in wardriving's Links page-- who knew it was so popular globally?

Wikipedia's excellent article on wireless security

Very good article on why WPA2 is the best

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Wardriving and piggybacking
Some people, called wardrivers, drive around with their laptop or smartphone or other mobile device turned on and actively search for wi-fi networks. There are two kinds of wardrivers: good ones and bad ones. A typical objective of the good wardrivers is to find open or unsecured networks that are available for public use with a view to collecting or mapping them for other good folks to legally use. The bad boys in the group would connect to any connectible networks and use available services without explicit authorization, or exploit any resources found on computers connected to these (mostly) home networks belonging to the unsuspecting, good folks who set them up and own them. This “bad” use of other folks' networks is referred to as “piggybacking.” The resources that the piggybackers are looking for include account numbers, passwords and other personal, valuable information.

Wifi security
Wi-fi routers can implement different types of wireless security, though their out-of-the-box, default condition is unsecured and totally disabled. The reason for this is that with security disabled, it's easier to troubleshoot a balky set up. Linksys routers, for example, typically offer WEP, WPA, and WPA2 as well as Disabled. But WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) has been broken by hackers since 2001. There are applications available that can break into WEP-protected networks automatically. WPA (Wi-fi Protected Access) is likewise broken. Hackers use databases of commonly-used passwords and special software that runs through the lists in the database looking for a possible weak password and the way in. It takes minutes instead of seconds as with WEP, but is almost as sure.

That leaves only WPA2 to foil piggybacking wardrivers. It uses the same kind of encryption as bank web sites-- a 256-bit key. This is the safest wi-fi security mode to use, and coupled with a nice 20-character, ultra-unique password, provides the tightest wi-fi security, though nothing is totally impregnable. For this reason, it's advisable to keep private info really private by turning off wireless when not in use and otherwise by keeping traffic off the air and strictly via ethernet cable. A wi-fi router typically has four LAN ethernet ports for this purpose.

Beware of open home networks
Because routers come out of the box with security disabled, and because it was not such a dangerous world only a decade ago, there used to be plenty of open networks around. Anyone could avoid paying for broadband access by just connecting to one and no one would be any the wiser. These days even this is a dangerous practice because many seemingly inviting open networks are traps loaded with computer viruses.
September 6, 2013

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