June 12, 2003

Tungsten C Day 9 -- Wardriving

One interesting application of the Wi-Fi capability of the Tungsten C is wardriving; that is, driving around finding Wi-Fi networks in various locations. There are various programs to do this on various platforms--on the Tungsten, we've got Bits 'n Bolts' recently renamed NetChaser (formerly WiFinder).

I've taken to mounting the Tungsten to my car's dashboard with some Velcro, launching NetChaser, and listening for the beeps showing the program found networks. It's pretty amazing how many wireless networks are out there in the suburbs of Long Island, not only in office parks and Starbucks (which uses T-Mobile as its provider), but in ordinary homes. I have noticed a few things, though:

  • Based on the SSIDs reported by NetChaser, most people in the area have Linksys equipment in their homes;

  • 60-80% or more of all networks I have found are unsecured, meaning they haven't turned on the WEP encryption that comes standard in every router, as well as on the Tungsten;

  • It probably comes as no surprise, but the number of wireless networks in a residential community is a pretty good if unscientific indicator of the relative economic strength of the community (i.e. wealthier neighborhoods have more hotspots); and

  • the receiver in the Tungsten is powerful enough to pick up networks from street level, even at higher driving speeds.

I haven't tried using any of the networks I found, both because I'm driving at the time and because it's bad netiquette (not to mention potentially theft of service), but someone else probably will. Meanwhile, remember to TURN ON YOUR WIRELESS ROUTER'S SECURITY! Oh, and if you're interested in some the legal implications of running a free hotspot, you can read my BizLawTech Blog entry on the subject here. {Jonathan}

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