Tag Archives: Wardriving

Wardriving With the Netscout AirCheck G2- Just For Fun

Ah, wardriving. Those of us with a long history in wireless networking know well what it is, and to me the very word conjures up memories of a different time… when Wi-Fi was new, kinda edgy, and not everybody really understood it very well. There are different motivations behind the act of wardriving, and I’m going to purposefully leave that side of the discussion out.

Wardriving used to be cool…

If you’d like to learn more or re-familiarize yourself with wardriving, look at these:

Back in the day, Netstumbler was the go-to wardriving tool for Windows, while Kismet was popular with the Linux community. There have been a slew of other suitable tools, but few have stood the test of time for name recognition like Netstumbler and Kismet.

Today, all you need to wardrive is a smartphone, and it’s really not all that glamorous anymore. We’re so used to looking at that list of SSIDs that more of them is hardly exciting, and it’s actually a pain at times. But through the right lens, wardriving is still kinda fun.

Netscout’s AirCheck G2 is a big gun

As I continue to evaluate the latest model AirCheck tester from Netscout, I decided to have a little fun with it on my way to work. My wife and I carpool, and I usually ride shotgun. So, one morning I opted to let the AirCheck G2 listen as we rolled through a couple of rural Upstate NY villages. The last time I did this exercise in these sleepy hamlets, I’d be lucky if I could see two-dozen networks. But times have changed, and in a stretch of about five miles in two villages with a combined population of under 4,000 people, The G2 shows that Wi-Fi is a-thumping even out in the country.wardrive

As you can see in the snippet above, some of these networks are obviously printers and such, but there’s still a lot going on. The AirCheck was in the car (sub-optimal reception), the vehicle was moving at 30, 45, and 55 MPH, and we have long stretches where there are no buildings. This is hardly scientific, but it is interesting- and the AirCheck makes gathering and extracting the info a breeze with it’s reporting capabilities..

Here’s some of what I saw:

  • Around 2 dozen truly open networks
  • Around a dozen WEP
  • 17 WPA-PSK networks
  • Balance (around 80) WPA2-PSK
  • No 802.1X WPA
  • Lots of channel buffoonery from “CableWiFi” and “TWCWiFi”
    • 17 on channel 3
    • 8 on channel 4
    • 6 on channel 5
    • 3 on channel 7
    • 1 on Channel 8
  • At least half of all networks name NetGear-xxx or other default SSIDs

The point?

There really isn’t one, except sometimes it is fun to simply gather SSIDs along the way and see what you can characterize about them as a data set. Of course, a good tool helps- and the AirCheck G2 is a very good tool.


My review on AirCheck G2 for Network Computing

Remembering Back When Wireless Was Edgy

For those younger IT types that grew up with wireless, this quick trip down memory lane might be little more than a yawnfest. But many of us remember when wireless was new, edgy, and fraught with mystique. This piece is for us geezers.

Back in the day (that day being around the late 1990’s/2001-2002ish), wireless networking had a whole other vibe. It was a relatively expensive technology, and usually served as an “accessory” to the wired network. Or it provided point-to-point bridging alternatives to leased lines. To “do” wireless, you had to understand networking and have a solid working knowledge of RF. Early access points were way too expensive (and client counts were too thin) to warrant dense deployments so you had to know your stuff when it came to antennas, power settings and how to manually manage a given RF domain.

But aside from “I do wireless for a living” aspects of early Wi-Fi, there was an adventurist culture attached to wireless networking that has arguably faded away (or maybe it’s just matured, too?). Some of us got into “war driving”, seeking out wireless networks for the pure joy of finding them and seeing what we could learn about them. People did unholy things to Pringles Potato Chip cans and woks and old satellite dish antennas in the name of shooting signals further and hearing them from longer distances (which was part of the overall security threat package to early wireless.) The really geeky among the wireless-curious wrote WEP cracking tools, and the rest of us felt ten feet tall when we actually made those tools work for us to divulge what their owners were trying to protect. Again, it was just a different time, and there was a lot of thrill factor associated with wireless.

So why bring it up now? Depending on how you measure such things, we’ve had a few generational evolutions from the good folks of 802.11ville, and the connected world has certainly “gone wireless”. WiFi is so commonplace, it’s no longer just the realm of specialists- though the same skills are still needed as before (and then some) to really pull off “wireless done right” in a complicated world.  Sure, the past has passed.

But, I recently stumbled across something cool on the web that got me a bit nostalgic…

Anyone remember these days? Or these? Being a “radio guy”, the notion of creating your own antennas and making signals go long distances is one of the things I’ve enjoyed through the years. At the same time, today’s systems tend to be more micro-cell-ish and so  I had somewhat put this chapter of the Book of Wireless away in my mind’s library.

A couple of days ago, I was researching something unrelated when I came across the WiFi Shootout links from the the 2004-2008 time frame. As cheesy as this sounds, it was kinda like looking at a photo album of my children, or at least children that I was quite fond of.

Ah, how far our wireless baby has come, and what a thrill it has been watching it grow up. *Sniff*.

Now be honest- how many of you have a tattoo that looks like