What Is Wardriving & What Does Google Have To Do With It? [MakeUseOf Explains]

Wardriving Intro   What Is Wardriving & What Does Google Have To Do With It? [MakeUseOf Explains]Wireless networks have become so prevalent in the first world that they could almost be considered critical infrastructure. Go from house to bus station to airport to Starbucks to the library – there’s a 99% chance you’ll find a WiFi network in each of those places. Schools and businesses are powered by wireless Internet, too. But with all of these hotspots available, there’s a hidden danger.

There are a host of potential problems and security holes that come with wireless networks. Hackers and malicious users are everywhere, doing their best to misuse and abuse whatever network they can gain access to. And while it would be nice to have full wireless coverage all around the nation, it introduces the capacity for wardriving, a security risk that could harm you.

What is wardriving? If you aren’t sure, then you should keep reading. Knowledge is, after all, the first step towards properly guarding yourself against threats.

Wardriving 101

wardriving 101   What Is Wardriving & What Does Google Have To Do With It? [MakeUseOf Explains]

Wardriving is not as brutal as the name might imply, but it can be dangerous (in a privacy-related sense, not a physical sense). In simple terms, wardriving is when someone drives around with a device that is capable of WiFi connection, e.g. a laptop or smartphone. The person uses the device to seek out WiFi networks in the area and stores them for use later.

The term is said to have originated from wardialing, which was a method used in the 1980s to hack certain phone numbers – by using computers to dial random numbers in search of active modems. This method was popularized in the film WarGames, hence the name. Except instead of active phone modems, wardriving is all about active WiFi networks.

The Dangers Of Wardriving

wardriving hackers   What Is Wardriving & What Does Google Have To Do With It? [MakeUseOf Explains]

Okay. So there are people driving around your neighborhood, scanning the skies for whatever wireless networks they can get their hands on. What’s the big deal? Why should you worry about it? How does any of it affect you?

For one, malicious users can use wardriving as a means of finding open, unsecured networks. If your network is unsecured or weakly secured, hackers can gain access to it and do some dodgy things. The least criminal activity they could do is to simply piggyback on your connection and use it for free Internet, causing you to lose some precious bandwidth.

But some piggybackers may use your WiFi to conduct illegal activities, ranging anywhere from torrenting illegal files to downloading (or uploading!) child pornography. Sometimes they do this so that they can’t be caught, leaving you to deal with the fallout. Other times, more malevolent users may specifically be aiming to frame you.

One of the most dangerous forms of mischief is to sniff your network data packets. By doing this, they can intercept and interpret your network data, which allows them to extract sensitive information–like usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, bank numbers, and more.

Wardriving & Google

wardriving google street view   What Is Wardriving & What Does Google Have To Do With It? [MakeUseOf Explains]

Did you know that Google was once involved with wardriving? In particular, one Google engineer had actually designed a program that was used in the Street View car to collect personal information from WiFi networks that came into range of the car between 2007 and 2010. In an unsurprising twist, the program that this engineer created (NetStumbler) became one of the most popular wardriving programs out there.

To be clear, there wasn’t any malicious intent by Google here. The Street View wardriving was supposed to collect wireless hotspot locations – like at the local Starbucks – so that those hotspot locations could be shown on Google Maps. In essence, Google just wanted to map out wireless access points.

The FCC eventually cleared Google of any wrongdoing. However, Google did come out of this mess looking a little worse for wear.

This is just another reminder that we should be very careful with our wireless networks. Knowing that there are programs out there that specifically search for weak and unsecured networks, you should do your best to keep your network as private and controlled as possible. Otherwise, you never know when you could be the unfortunate victim of a drive-by network hopper.

Image Credit: Wireless Signal Via Shutterstock, Wardriving 101 Via Shutterstock, Wireless Hacker Via Shutterstock

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26 Comments -

Javier Vega

I had no idea about that incident with Google, in my case i’m pretty relaxed about this, my router is far from the street so it barely reaches (most of the time it doesn’t), i have it with high security anyways, but checking logs once a month tells me there are no “unwanted visitors”.

Joel Lee

Yeah, as long as you recognize the risks and keep tabs on your WiFi, you should be good. Keep it up!

Muo TechGuy

It may not reach for you, but for those of us with high powered antennas, we can pickup signals from miles away. I sincerely hope your network isnt open.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I’ve heard about that, but this is the first time I heard the term ‘wardriving’. Given the name, it’s quite far-fetched to connect it with the act of gathering wireless connection.

Terafall

Thanks for the informative article

Joel Lee

You’re welcome. Thanks for the kind words.

Nikhil Chandak

thanks for the amazing article

Joel Lee

You’re welcome. I appreciate the kind words.

Paul Harris

Secure your wireless and get VPN.

Drew Butler

Nothing really new for me but well written and informative for those that have no idea about Wardriving. One pointer for those concerned with making their connection more secure is to not only change the network name and password, but also change the login and password on your router configuration page. I do some tech support and PC repair for friends and family and it is real easy to look up the generic username name and password for the router configuration page. My bad for not using proper spelling, grammar or sentence structure but I don’t really care to be honest… Really tired but I thought this was pertinent. Nice article Joel and everyone have a good night.

Drew Butler

Nothing really new for me but well written and informative for those that have no idea about Wardriving. One pointer for those concerned with making their connection more secure is to not only change the network name and password, but also change the login and password on your router configuration page. I do some tech support and PC repair for friends and family and it is real easy to look up the generic username name and password for the router configuration page. My bad for not using proper spelling, grammar or sentence structure but I don’t really care to be honest… Really tired but I thought this was pertinent. Nice article Joel and everyone have a good night.

Drew Butler

Nothing really new for me but well written and informative for those that have no idea about Wardriving. One pointer for those concerned with making their connection more secure is to not only change the network name and password, but also change the login and password on your router configuration page. I do some tech support and PC repair for friends and family and it is real easy to look up the generic username name and password for the router configuration page. My bad for not using proper spelling, grammar or sentence structure but I don’t really care to be honest… Really tired but I thought this was pertinent. Nice article Joel and everyone have a good night.

Drew Butler

Nothing really new for me but well written and informative for those that have no idea about Wardriving. One pointer for those concerned with making their connection more secure is to not only change the network name and password, but also change the login and password on your router configuration page. I do some tech support and PC repair for friends and family and it is real easy to look up the generic username name and password for the router configuration page. My bad for not using proper spelling, grammar or sentence structure but I don’t really care to be honest… Really tired but I thought this was pertinent. Nice article Joel and everyone have a good night.

Drew Butler

Nothing really new for me but well written and informative for those that have no idea about Wardriving. One pointer for those concerned with making their connection more secure is to not only change the network name and password, but also change the login and password on your router configuration page. I do some tech support and PC repair for friends and family and it is real easy to look up the generic username name and password for the router configuration page. My bad for not using proper spelling, grammar or sentence structure but I don’t really care to be honest… Really tired but I thought this was pertinent. Nice article Joel and everyone have a good night.

Drew Butler

Oops.. Didn’t see the “processing comment” notification, Sorry. Joel please remove all those repeats and this comment as well. Not trying to spam. There should be a way to disable the post comment button while its busy processing a comment..Just an idea. Anyways… Need sleep badly.. lol…night all

Ken E Baker

Great article. Would help if you could include some useful pointers for newbies on how to combat this – hardware firewalls, changing encryption type, changing passwords, the difference between enabling private and public access on your network etc etc, or at least links to relevant articles

vineed gangadharan

wow nice article,,,i was unware of the tern wardriving,,,keep it up

Anonymous

thx for such an interesting article

but anyway,i’m not using wifi so i’m more secure

Arron Walker

Interesting, didn’t think people still left networks unsecured for this to be a problem. It’s nice to put a name to the practice – I knew the idea of it all, but never realised it was a thing.

nikhil agarwal

I thought google has been fined heavily for compromising the privacy of people and collecting information including face photos and other information….

Yudono Ra

thanks good i never heard/see such thing occur in my neigbourhood, most of my neighbour like to use cable modem (non/wifi)

Adam Campbell

sounds like it is fun to work at google…

Jon Smith

Well I’m fixing my Wifi security now thanks to another article but I hope my neighbors didn’t do anything dumb with my wifi

Michael Jan Moratalla

nice

Gary Mundy

Must be people with these nefarious plan have a lot of time on there hands. Put then I live out in the sticks and my house is 500 yard through the trees to the road. Secured too but. . . .
Thanks for the article

Griffin

“lcoations”