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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 12:02 GMT
State of the wireless nation
Car wing mirror, BBC
Mobile security experts are mapping wireless networks
Computer experts and interested amateurs are joining forces to map out wireless networks around the world and find out how many are secure.

The results of the first mapping expedition reveals that, despite the publicity about the security problems of wireless networks, many companies and consumers are leaving networks open to attack.

The first survey revealed that 70% of the wireless networks found do not turn on the encryption system built-in to the products.

It also revealed that 27% have not even changed the default name of their wireless components making it very easy for people to surreptitiously sign in and use the network.

Net stumbling

Wireless, or Wifi, networks which link together computers and peripherals with radio instead of tangled, untidy cables are enjoying a boom, but for many their convenience has an unseen cost.

Surveys by security companies and curious computer enthusiasts have shown that few people are taking basic security precautions to ensure the network they have created and the data they are swapping is safe from attack.

Isolated wardriving expeditions have shown that the majority of networks do not turn on the data scrambling system built into the Wifi hardware.

Wardriving gets its name from the past practice of using a computer to dial through long lists of telephone numbers searching for data rather than dial tones. This is known as wardialing.

Now computer security experts and amateurs are conducting a series of large-scale surveys in several countries to map out the extent of the problem.

The first Worldwide Wardrive was carried out from 31 August to 7 September and the second one is taking place between 26 October and 2 November.

Wardrives are taking place in many American cities including Boston, San Diego and Des Moines as well as in Norway, Barcelona and Johannesburg.

In all 32 areas in nine countries are being surveyed.

The first survey found 9374 wireless access points, more than 30% of which did not have basic encryption turned on.

Almost the same percentage used the default names for the components forming the network.

Many of the networks are broadcasting these names making it very easy for malicious hackers and computer criminals to covertly join the network or try to use it to break in to other parts of the same network.

Wardrivers typically use a laptop running a program such as Netstumbler that logs signals from any Wifi networks it finds.

See also:

19 Sep 02 | Technology
01 Jul 02 | dot life
08 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
06 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
26 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
28 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
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