The Risks of Wardrivers

man holding mug in front of laptop

We tend to believe that our so-called “secure” WiFi networks, like the one you probably use at home, are totally safe. We only need to worry about public WiFi networks, right? 

But there are real dangers to your home WiFi networks, like the threat of wardrivers. Wardrivers use hardware and software to find WiFi signals in a particular area in order to find vulnerable networks with weak passwords. Once in, the attacker has total access to your sensitive information and can see everything you do online. 

A recent article found that nearly 70% of home WiFi network passwords were vulnerable to wardrivers

Sounds scary, huh? Although war driving is a real security threat, it doesn’t have to be a hazard to your home wireless network if you take steps to protect yourself. 

What Exactly is Wardriving? 

Wardriving is the process of physically searching for wireless networks with vulnerabilities from a moving vehicle and mapping the wireless access points. The person or persons doing the wardriving usually concentrate on WiFi signals within a particular area. 

Once they locate specific networks, wardrivers will record the location of vulnerable networks and then submit this to third-party websites and apps to create digital maps. 

The main reasons why wardrivers look for vulnerable WiFi networks is to steal your financial information, which includes your credit card numbers and your banking information. Another reason is to use your network for criminal activity. Sometimes, wardrivers are used by ethical hackers who want to improve network security. 

Wardriving can easily be done with an app on a smartphone. However, larger attacks can sometimes use intricate wardriving software, a GPS to find locations of wireless networks, and a computer or smartphone that has access to a wireless network. 

Surprisingly, Wardriving is Not Illegal

While it may seem that doing something like accessing secure wireless networks would be illegal, there are no laws that specifically prohibit or allow wardriving, though many localities have laws forbidding unauthorized access of computer networks and protecting personal privacy. 

Wardriving is less common today than it was 20 years ago, but the problem persists. Although ethical hackers are out there, we need to be more concerned with those trying to exploit weaknesses in our home WiFi networks to extract data or perform illegal activities.

How to Protect Yourself from Wardrivers

There are some common sense things we can do right now to our home WiFi networks to make sure we are not at risk of wardrivers. 

  • Update your router’s password: Our network is only as secure as our password, so make sure you change it regularly and use multi-factor authentication when available. 
  • Enable network encryption: Be sure to use the highest network security protocol available (WEP, WPA, and WPA2). Also, make sure your network is not open to anyone within range. 
  • Use a network firewall: Firewalls block certain kinds of unapproved communication and stop most attempts to access your network.
  • Make sure your system has the latest updates: Always install software updates immediately, including patches and security on your hardware and software. 
  • Use a VPN: Most importantly, make sure you are using a VPN

The best way to protect your home WiFi network from wardrivers is to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which encrypts the data moving to and from all your devices that are connected to your home networks. The encryption protects all your Internet communication from being intercepted by others, even if they’ve cracked your router password and gained access to your networks. 

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Jared Howe

Jared Howe is PRIVATE WiFi’s Senior Manager, Product Marketing Communications. Working in high tech for over 15 years, Jared currently lives in Seattle with his wife, daughter, and their two cats.

9 Responses

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  3. Lukas Phelan says:

    The term “wardriving” is a play on the word “wardialing,” which refers to a method of detecting and locating computer networks by using a modem to dial up each phone number in an assigned range.

    Wardriving is essentially the same thing: it involves driving around in an automobile with a laptop and searching for Wi-Fi networks. In this case, however, you’re looking for open Wi-Fi networks that are not password protected.

    It’s important to note that wardriving can be illegal in some areas. In most cases, it isn’t illegal unless you use the information gathered during your search to commit crimes or damage property.

  4. Wardrivers are a serious threat to your company’s security. They’re the people who drive around with their laptops in the car, hoping to find unprotected networks and hack into them.

    If you’ve got a lot of employees who work from home, or if your office is located in a low-income neighborhood where people are more likely to be wardrivers, it’s important for you to take steps to protect yourself.

  5. I’m not a big fan of wardriving.

    I mean, I get it. It’s fun to see how many open WiFi networks you can find, and maybe even try to hack into them. But the risks usually outweigh the benefits.

    First of all, most people don’t know that their WiFi network is open. They just have it on because they haven’t changed the password since they got it in college or something, and they don’t realize that now their entire neighborhood has access to their data—including personal information like pictures of their kids or their bank account info. And then there’s the fact that some people will use these open networks to do illegal things like use BitTorrent or pirate movies and music. And those people could get caught by law enforcement for doing so, but also be tracked down by hackers who want to steal your identity or change your passwords or do other stuff like that.

  6. Wardriving is a popular hobby among hackers and security professionals, who use it to find wireless networks that are not secure. The practice also has its risks, however.

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