The wireless world is becoming a prolific source of cracks. “Wardriving” involves driving through some area with a wireless-enabled notebook computer to map hotspots—houses and businesses having unsecured wireless access points—to be able to connect to the Internet.
A variation on the wardriving theme is “warwalking,” involving a more pedestrian search of unsecure wireless networks. The latter is also known as “walk-by cracking.” Warwalkers often engage in “warchalking,” the marking of a special symbol on a sidewalk or other surface to indicate a nearby wireless network, particularly one with Internet access. Wardrivers and warchalkers often utilize GPS satellite localization equipment to determine the exact coordinates of a vulnerable hotspot. They share this information with their peers and thus create maps that identify the numerous unprotected hotspots across the world.
Any laptop computer coming in range of the wireless signal extending beyond the walls of a house or a business would not only be able to access the Internet but also potentially create all types of cyber mischief while being connected to it, including identity theft. However, securing such a network can easily be accomplished. Under the network settings is a button enabling the wireless encryption protocol. By simply clicking this button, a user can encrypt the signal and secure the network. Unfortunately, the default option—which far too many users rely on—leaves the network unsecured—and open to cyber vandals. Someone could park outside one’s home or sit at the home next door and download pornography using this unsecured broadband connection. Failure to secure the system can result in a Wi-Fi–enabled person within 200 feet of the access point to access the base station’s Internet connection and then perform a number of cybercrimes, including the downloading of child pornography.
In 2003, the office of the Secret Service in Newark, New Jersey, started an investigation to infiltrate the networks and the Websites of cybercriminals thought to have stolen and sold to others multitudes of credit card numbers. Since October 2004, more than 30 cybercriminals from around the globe were arrested in connection with such illegal operations. About half of the suspected thieves used the open Wi-Fi connections of their unsuspecting neighbors to commit their cybercrimes. Four suspects (from California, Florida, and Canada jurisdictions) were actually logged in to their neighbors’ high-speed wireless networks when the law enforcement officers knocked on their doors to make the arrests. High-tech experts said that the naÃ¯ve victims never turned on any of the features available in Wi-Fi routers to change the system’s default settings.
Behrendt, E. Eastvalleytribune.com. Students to Study Valley’s Vulnerability to Hackers. [Online, March 12, 2005.] Eastvaleeytribune.com Website. http://www .eastvalleytribune.com/index.php?sty=37537; McFedries, P. Technically Speaking: Hacking Unplugged. IEEE Spectrum, February 2004, p. 80; Schiesel, S. Growth of Wireless Internet Opens New Path for Thieves. [Online, March 19, 2005.] The New York Times Company Website. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/19/technology/19wifi.html.