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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
FBI warns about wireless craze
FBI agents, AP
Some FBI agents are worried about warchalking
Well-meaning wireless activists have caught the attention of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

One of its agents has issued a warning about the popular practice of using chalk marks to show the location of wireless networks.

The marks, or "warchalks", are cropping up in cities and suburbs across the world.

The FBI is now telling companies that, if they see the chalk marks outside their offices, they should check the security of wireless networks and ensure they remain closed to outsiders.

Top marks

The warchalking phenomena is only a couple of months old but it has generated a huge amount of interest.

The idea behind warchalking is to use a standardised set of symbols to mark the existence of wireless networks that anyone can use to go online.

Many community groups and local governments, and even some public-spirited companies, are setting up wireless nodes that give people fast net access.

Warchalk symbol, BBC
This symbol denotes a closed wireless node
The wireless networks replace computer cables with radio and are usually very easy to set up and connect to.

Before now many curious hackers have gone on "wardriving" expeditions which involve them driving around an area logging the location of the wireless networks.

Many companies using wireless do not do enough to make them secure and stop people outside the organisation using them.

So the FBI is issuing advice to companies to be on the lookout for warchalk marks as a pointer to the security of their wireless network.

"If you notice these symbols at your place of business, it is likely your network has been identified publicly," warns the guidance from the FBI.

Scare stories?

The agent who circulated the warning in Pittsburgh said it was not an official FBI advisory or policy but was information worth passing on.

He urged anyone using a wireless network to ensure that it was secure and used only by those a company wants to access it.

Warchalkers have questioned the scare stories surrounding the phenomena, saying that anyone with malicious intent is unlikely to publicly mark their target.

The phrases "wardriving" and "warchalking" derive from the early days of computer hacking when curious users programmed their computers to search for all phone lines that returned data tones. The exhaustive searching was known as "wardialling".

See also:

23 Jul 02 | Technology
01 Jul 02 | dot life
06 Aug 02 | Technology
18 Mar 02 | dot life
06 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
17 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
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