By tonyhughes Hughes, in , posted: 28-Sep-2006 22:21

Okay, so WarDriving takes a few different forms. Some people employ external antennas, and software specifically designed to snoop out WiFi networks, and attach to them, and then either try and gain access to systems, or leech bandwidth.

For example, if you knew you could connect to your neighbours WiFi and leech off his high speed cable connection, you could have a low grade DSL connection at home, and do all your file sharing, game demo and ISO downloads (etc) using your neighbours connection.

Or gain access to his PC and steal his credit card details.

It gets much worse than this, but conversely, there is the lighter side of it...

If I walk down the street about two blocks from my house (im virtually right in the city), I start to come across several WiFi networks. My bog-standard HTC Apache's built in WiFi connection system bleeps at me, and says it has found a network, and would i like to connect. All I have to do is say 'yes', and it connects, then my email automatically starts pouring in.

This is because the owner of the WiFi system, for whatever reason (be it ignorance, laziness, altruism or whatever), has not secured his system.

See, the trouble is, by default, WiFi systems come with all their security turned OFF by default. Not a bean of security turned on.

Buy a new WiFi router, plug it in, and it will let any machine connect using DHCP automatic IP address allocation, and let those machines access whatever WAN connection it has.

So, is it wrong for me to click 'yes' when I walk past one, and collect 10 kilobytes of email headers?

What do you think? Is the fault of the owner, and should he/she be punished by having their bandwidth leeched? (No matter how small an amount).

Is it the fault of the vendors, for shipping these devices with all security off by default? Well - picture this - lets say that Linksys shipped EVERY WiFi AP with secuirty turned on... their helpdesks would go beserk with customers complaining of being unable to connect to their new router via WiFi. This would push up the cost of support dramatically, and would make their product uneconomical compared to their competitors.

Have you ever 'stolen' some wifi?

Were you stealing your neighbours bandwidth to download gigabytes of data?
Were you far from home, and grabbing some email headers to keep you going?

Is there any moral difference between the two?

Have you ever taken the time to discover the actual location of the AP and talk to the owner? If so, how did it go? Did you get a thankful and warm reception, or were you treated like geek cracker scum? (and if so, are you?)

I told a business owner once - because I knew him, and had a business relationship with him. He said "oh, we know about that - it cost us $2000 in overage charges a couple of months ago, I guess we will do something about it soon." - it took him a further 3 months to do so (with me mentioning it every time i visited).

"Free" WiFi is delicious... its nice to find, and makes you feel good. But what about the person on the recieving end?.... Well, technically, its probably best to say the transmitting end :-P

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Comment by barf, on 28-Sep-2006 23:13

yo tony, im no stranger to this topic but I do draw the line at stealing bandwidth and data. What I find more interesting is using completely passive sniffing to monitor networks. The reason I enjoy completely passive sniffing is that it is fun and not illegal. In this situation the data IS TRANSMITTED TO YOU and it is no crime to own receiving equipment - a similar situation to the legality of scanning radio receivers. To the extent of my (limited) research, in NZ it is illegal when you act upon information attained from monitoring, the act of sniffing itself is not illegal unless you have malicious intentions. Breaking encryption has been made illegal however. But please take this with a grain of salt as I have only read the Crimes Ammendment Bill Act#6 and SOP#85.

Author's note by tonyhughes, on 28-Sep-2006 23:21

Great comment. i think stealing bandwidth is wrong, but i know many geeks and non-geeks alike who think its perfectly okay, including many in the IT industry. People need to start taking security seriously, and the idea of leaving your AP open should not be something taken lightly.

Why dont APs have a big warning sticker explaining the dangers, that has to be removed before you get access to even plug the darn things in.

Something I think would be cool is to have an option to leave your AP open, but only for WAN access, and limiting any given MAC address to a very small amount of actual bandwidth (e.g. 64kbps and a maximum of a meg a day, with a pool of x-megs for the month for unauthenticated users).

The idea of genuine (intentional) free wifi is great, especially now that connectivity of some sort is so integral to so many peoples lives....

Comment by psychrn, on 29-Sep-2006 01:01

Whislt I was on ACC a few months ago and needed to frequently visit a local Physiotherapist.
One time I was there-I happened to turn on the Wifi and sure enough found they were un encrypted. As it happens there were quite a few professional type chambers nearby too, and I wondered if there were any un-secured.
I happened to mention what I had discovered  this fact to the reception and she thanked me for telling me and they woud get there IT perason onto it.
Next time I visited they have secured the connection alright

Comment by tr3v, on 29-Sep-2006 07:45

My mother runs a B&B where she provides WiFi access for guests. There were two issues::-
1/ Getting guests connected
2/ Controlling traffic volumes.

We did not want to charge guests for the service, or have to spend time setting it up, or worry about them downloading GBs of data so... the easiest solution was to get an 'unlimited' plan from our ISP and leave WiFi unsecured. As long as guests know that their own connection is unsecure (insecure?), and the office PC has protection, then I don't see a problem - win win?

One thought is that if someone wanted to spam the world or perform some other unfriendly activity, then I guess we are unintentionally providing an environment for that.

Comment by Rob, on 29-Sep-2006 12:03

Hmmm ... interesting one. 3 experiences: 1. Altruism. I first found an open wifi connection when the new neighbours moved in. I told them about it. He said he knew -- and he was into sharing his connecting, and was generally into 'Community ICT'. I had my own, though, and his was usually too weak to use. I appreciated the sentiment, though. 2. Altruism/interest. I have moved since then, and in the new house, my wifi is open. I keep an eye on it, to see if it is abused. So far, no. I am also interested to see if anyone does use it, and for how long. (Although I haven't bothered to look at the logs for a while ...) 3. Emergency. I administer a couple of clients' office servers. This is the *only* time I have stolen bandwidth, and it was a very small amount. This was before I had a mobile data plan. My client was panicking (with good reason) because the cleaner had turned off the server. It mostly comes up by itself on boot, but some important services have to be gently nurtured into existence. I was at a conference at a church centre in suburbab Chch at the time, and the busy office wouldn't allow me to connect in there through dialup. I was about to reluctantly head downtown to a Starbucks (and miss a good part of a important conference day I had paid a lot for) but opened up my laptop and discovered a weak open wifi signal. It was enough to launch an ssh session into that server and bring up those services. Probably no more than a couple of megs went back and forth, at the very most ... But I would *only* do this in an emergency ... and this incident finally prompted me to get a mobile data plan ...

Comment by barf, on 29-Sep-2006 16:55

tr3v: sounds like you need a captive portal. it's easy to control access with the right software and I've setup a couple of billing systems for hotels and b&bs using chillispot, freeradius and mysql. That might be a bit too elaborate though, checkout pfsense.com its a firewall with a captive portal built into it.

Comment by Brenda, on 30-Sep-2006 12:18

it's a standard symbol of free spirit, to leave your wifi unsecured - give it a funky name - and thus offer it up for neighbourly use. that's how i take these open wifi networks everywhere - it's like leaving a box of apple at your front gate with a sign saying "free". You take it with caution - turn on TLS, ssh tunnels, SSL and "pay it forward" by opening your own wifi router the same way.

Comment by WiFi Security, on 5-Mar-2007 10:37

Bottom line: It's unethical. I just read an article comparing it to someone leaving the front door of their house open and you walk in and take their TV - it's not right no matter how you argue it. BUT, they were stupid for leaving it open. With it being so easy to secure your WiFi network, there is really no excuse and you're just plain stupid if you don't. Sooner or later, you ARE going to have someone leech off your network if you don't secure it.

Comment by jimc, on 13-Jun-2007 22:16

Stealing bandwidth is wrong, there is no two ways about it. No logical argument can be made to support bandwidth stealing. However, I have decided to open up my WiFi connection and "GIVE" it away to neighbors. Now they are not stealing it. I have 2 AP's - One secured, which feeds my connections in my home. The other is wide open - broadcast SSID, DHCP Server, no WEP/WAP. I did however install ChilliSpot (chillispot.org) with FreeRadius (freeradius.org). Anyone connecting to my open WiFi gets a login page. If they don't have an account, they can login with guest/guest and recieve a 1 hour connection @ 64k/64k. All connections are logged, including Time, IP, and MAC. This started out as demo run for a small Internet Cafe that was going to open in town. I was going to do the hotspot setup for them, but they never materialized the cafe. My plan was to integrate Freeside billing (sisd.com/freeside), but never completed that portion.

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