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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 10:06 GMT
Commuters hack wireless networks
Wireless hacking is most likely to occur during the rush hour, a survey has found.

Commuters leaving station in London
Breaking up the monotony of rush hour with a wireless hack?
Jumping on to the increasing number of wireless networks around cities such as London has become something of a hobby for hackers and those seeking to gain free access to the internet.

The security arm of consultancy firm KPMG set out to discover just how big a menace so-called war driving is to London businesses.

It set up three wireless "honeypots" around the City of London in an attempt to lure hackers.

Not all harmless

Risks include stealing bandwidth which slows the network down, or actual physical disablement of systems
Mark Osborne, KPMG
The dummy set-up appeared to be a legitimate corporate wireless network but actually recorded and analysed the activity of users trying to access it.

It found that the most popular time for war driving was between nine and 10 am and between five and six pm.

This suggested to investigators that people scan for wireless access points during their commutes to and from the office, either on foot or in the car.

Virtually no activity was recorded at weekends.

On average 3.4 attempts to access the network were spotted each day. Of these, 84% appeared to be harmless war-driving hobbyists content to pinpoint a vulnerability and move on.

Only 16% of the probes actually accessed the network, but of these a worrying three-quarters appeared to have malicious intentions.

Dispelling the myth

Activities included attempts to run computer commands that would damage the technology as well as attempts to tamper with and access systems.

"The activity recorded is significant, given the proliferation of wireless networks now being used by companies," said Mark Osborne, Director of Security Services at KPMG.

"The project dispels the myth that all unauthorised wireless activity is harmless. Risks include stealing bandwidth which slows the network down, or actual physical disablement of systems," he added.

War drivers and hackers tend to access wireless networks via laptop computers running freely available software that can detect such networks.

Often these networks are denoted for others by chalk marks on the building or the pavement.

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