article on using inSSIDer to get info about neighboring networks
excellent article on wardriving
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excellent article on wireless security
good article on why WPA2 is the best
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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
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
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