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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.
Crossposted from my O'Reilly blog

hehe... I was a bad boy tonight. Ok, well not really, but with a title like that you expect it. no?

Here's the deal: I went out on a call tonight. Spent about an hour working on someone's wireless network. Pretty basic stuff, with no real hiccups. Once I left and started to drive home, I *noticed* my WLAN monitor was still running. Being the curious fella I am, I thought to myself... I wonder how many networks I'll see between here and home. Home is about 3 miles away.

So... driving the speed limit (40MPH), and keeping one eye on the laptop, I counted about 30 wireless networks that I could see. Naturally there were probably a few more that don't broadcast, but I wasn't concerned with them. Of that 30, roughly 6 were "secured" with WEP. I use airquotes here because we don't know how secure they actually are, but anyway...

Out of the remaining 24, about 10 were using something other than the default SSID (like "linksys" or "netgear".) This is the part that tickled me the most. Of those 10, at least 2 of them used misspellings of the default SSID (i.e. lynksis.) I couldn't help but wonder if this was a deliberate attempt to be clever (aka more secure.) LOL Flipping a few letters in the SSID doesn't help much if you broadcast it to the whole neighborhood. To me, it doesn't mean you're clever, it means you can't spell. LOL

annnnnyway, by this point I was almost home and dying to mention it in my blog. No I didn't borrow any bandwidth but I did get a few funny looks from people as I was driving home with the laptop lighting up the inside of the jeep. Or maybe it was my laughter that got their attention.

Will I do this more often? I hate to say it, but probably yeah. I'm a curious type. But I won't be borrowing any bandwidth, since that's stealing. Not to mention it's kinda pointless to try and accomplish anything other than scanning while driving down a major highway.

Is there a point to this post? Well if there must be, I guess it's this: PEOPLE... SECURE YOUR WIRELESS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Seriously though, why do so many people expect computers to work like toasters or blenders? It takes 5 minutes to setup WEP on your wireless network, and that's only if you don't get it right the first time. My brother, god bless him, is a perfect example of this. Plug it in, turn it on, start using it. If it takes more steps than that, it's too complicated.

I never cease to be amazed at how many folks give as much thought to their computer as they do their blenders. Why do so many folks spend more time picking out tv remotes than they do setting up wireless security at home?

Computers are not appliances. I don't care what you call them, or how pretty the case is, or if it fits on your entertainment center. Even media center PCs (which are about as close as it gets) are NOT applicances. Do I think they ever will be? Tough call, probably not. But hey, I've been wrong before. Posted on Monday, November 14, 2005 4:29 PM General Interest | Back to top

Comments on this post: I was NOT wardriving officer, I swear...

# re: I was NOT wardriving officer, I swear...
Requesting Gravatar...
Just gotta is it stealing? Isn't it that they're giving it away? I mean, I don't do it but I don't see how it's stealing. I've been called "honest to a fault" so I'm not trying to justify dishonesty.
Left by Codesailor on Nov 14, 2005 4:41 PM

# re: I was NOT wardriving officer, I swear...
Requesting Gravatar...
well... "The Man" calls it stealing, and he's always right, right?

Actually... I guess it's considered stealing because they don't know you're taking it. Even if they are giving it away... if they don't know they are giving it away, doesn't that mean you're taking it without asking? Which is stealing, yes?

It's a fair question, and subject to much debate. I know plenty of folks feel justified in borrowing wireless, the same way the borrow cable tv... and we all know that's illegal.

Hey... that's it. Maybe it's stealing because you aren't paying the ISP for the service. So you aren't necessarily stealing from the doofus down the block, but you're stealing from Bellsouth or whoever.

Of course it's a lot harder to track down someone stealing wireless internet than it is to track down the guy splicing your coax so he can watch MTV2.
Left by Chris Williams on Nov 14, 2005 4:48 PM

# re: I was NOT wardriving officer, I swear...
Requesting Gravatar...
Good comments, Chris. One night I took my laptop out in my yard and picked up 6 unsecured wireless networks. This convinced me to check my own network and secure it.
Left by solid on Nov 15, 2005 7:13 AM

# After "securing" my home network...
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Well after reading all the warning, helpful info and great discussions about wireless security, I got busy and did all the steps that I've seen posted in many discussions online, namely:
1. Changed my wireless router's default password to a 30-digit random string;
2. Changed the default SSID to a 30-digit random string;
3. Selected WPA-PSK encryption with a 55-digit random encryption key;
4. Turned off SSID broadcast;
5. Turned on access control for my MAC code only;
6. Changed the default IP to a completely different set of numbers;
7. Turned off DHCP server feature;
8. Installed a 2nd WIRED router in front of the wireless unit and that unit is the one assigning the IP address thru my invisible wireless router.
9. Installed ZoneAlarm and set it to max blocking.
10 Finally turned on WinFirewall.

My question is: is this enough to discourage / prevent most hacking intrusions??
Left by Smitty on Nov 20, 2006 8:22 PM

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