Types of Wireless Network Attacks: War Driving

War driving is the perfect alternative when a wireless network attack seems next to impossible. The term originates from a phone hacking technique used in the 1980's - war dialing. War dialing consists of dialing every phone number in a specific sequence in search of modems. This strategy was so effective that many security professionals and malicious crackers still employ it today. Similar to war dialing, war driving is likely to be around for users and eventually be of aid to unscrupulous attackers and security professionals alike.

The practice of war driving first achieved popularity in 2001, around the same time wireless network scanning tools became widely available. The initial war driving tools included simple software coupled with the WNIC (Wide-area Network Interface Coprocessor). In actuality, these programs were not designed with potential attackers or security professionals in mind. The inefficiency of these products sparked a need for more reliable solutions. However, war drivers have not completely dropped the use of WNIC-based software as it is still relevant in modern programs.

Ethical War Drivers

The malicious use of war driving has given a bad name to the entire practice. The prevalence in network attacks have many questioning the motivation behind the so-called "ethical war drivers." While some corporations are confident of spotting a war driver from outside and having them hauled away by security, this same line of thinking is what makes their wireless networks vulnerable. Wireless technology enables a network to extend far beyond the parking lot of an office building. In some cases, a wireless network using standard clients and devices has the ability to span several miles. Already equipped with this knowledge, an outside can position themselves further away from the building and still catch a strong signal from the network.

The act of war driving itself does not constitute a wireless network attack. Many authorities share this sentiment and believe it doesn't violate any laws. On the other hand, these are all assumptions that have yet to be tried in the United States courts. If a case does happen to make it that far, proving judgement against a war driver could be more difficult than one may think. To be specific, someone using this technique is usually mobile in a vehicle or on public property. The special software on their mobile device is what allows them to capture data frames being transmitted from the Wi-Fi access point. Access points frequently use this signal to openly broadcast their presence and to identify the presence of others in the vicinity. These frames are also used by a company's clients to determine available networks within the building.

The Bottom Line on War Driving

War driving is a popular activity performed by all kinds of individuals. While war drivers do consist of malicious people actively seeking wireless networks to attack, they mostly include legitimate users seeking out signals as a part of their network obligations. As technology advances, more security professionals are likely to implement a form of war driving as a part of their regular management regime. At the same time, more attackers are liable to enhance the detect and develop better ways to exploit a network.

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