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This FAQ is edited by: Bill , localhost
It was last modified on 2013-11-25 20:29:07
1.0 General Information
What is wardriving?
Quoting from here
"Wardriving is an activity consisting of driving around with a laptop or a PDA in one's vehicle, detecting Wi-Fi wireless networks."
Further Information and History:
The term "Wardriving" is adapted from the term "Wardialing." Wardialing is/was the act of dialing phone numbers with a modem at random or in a sequence to attempt to find a computer on the other end of the line. Once a computer is found, the person who discovered it could attempt to gain access, log the discovery, or basically do what he/she wants.
This term has been adapted to searching for wireless networks since the same theories apply. The only difference would be that instead of a phone line, wireless networking is used. Many Wardrivers log their discoveries, some attempt to gain access, and some do it to ensure the security of their own network.
I have the basic equipment, how can I get more signals?
There are multiple methods for enhancing signal strengths and wireless signal counts.
The first, and most common, option is to add an external antenna to your setup. Usually this is done by purchasing or modifying an external wireless adapter. A "pigtail" is sometimes required to adapt between different coaxial connectors for various antennas.
Antennas come in all shapes and sizes from omnidirectional to directional to parabolic dishes. Depending on the application, certain antennas are a better choice. 90% of the time, for warrdriving, an omnidirectional antenna is the answer. If you are trying to pinpoint the exact location of specific signals, then directional antennas can come in handy as well.
Generally, the setup will have a pigtail plugged into the wireless adapter. The pigtail is then plugged into a high quality coaxial cable, which in turn is connected to the antenna itself.
People look at me weird when I go Wardriving
When people see a computer in a car and weird looking antennas, they do not know what to think. Quite often they simply want to see what is going on, since it looks cool. The key is to not act as if you're doing something illegal, because you're not! If they keep staring at you and make you feel uncomfortable, stare back and start waving at them.
I run Windows, what software do I need?
Depending on your operating system, there are numerous software packages available for use.
Most people running Windows, use NetStumbler
. It has support for many different types of wireless devices and GPS units. It is called an "active scanner"; it sends a request to all wireless devices in the area. The wireless devices see the request, and replys with their information. NetStumbler logs the information and keeps track of every time it sees a given wireless device. NetStumbler is very easy to install and use.
I run Linux/*BSD, what software do I need?
For Linux/*Bsd users, the tool of choice is Kismet
Kismet, unlike NetStumbler, is a "passive scanner". This means that instead of probing wireless devices for information, it sits and waits for the information to come to it. This is generally the preferred method because it is more difficult (if not impossible) to detect a passive scanner interecepting network information.
Kismet is somewhat difficult to install, if one is not used to Linux/*BSD, but there are tutorials readily available. For FreeBSD users, there is a package in ports for kismet.
How much does this stuff cost?
Almost all wireless software is free.
Many pieces of software are open source and are released under the GPL licence.
What do I need to get started?
Getting started is easier than you would think.
All you need is a wireless enabled laptop or PDA (a desktop can theoretically work, but it is difficult to fit in a car).
Integrated wireless adapters will work depending on your scanning software, as will PCMCIA/USB/other adapters.
Other than that, there are numerous things that can be added but they are not necessary.
Do I have to use an external antenna when wardriving?
It isn't required, but it is recommended.
What is a pigtail?
A pigtail is a short length of coaxial cable (about one foot) used to connect a large/low loss cable to your wireless adapter.
Pigtails are usually very thin because they have very small connectors on one end to connect to the wireless adapter. The other end usually has a Type-N male or female connector in order to connect to an antenna or a larger cable.
What are all of these weird connectors?
Virtually every wireless equpiment manufacturer uses their own special connector for their devices. The FCC told the manufacturers to use nonstandard connectors in order to make it harder for people to attach external antennas.
There are many types and variations from a standard connector, to a reverse polarity connector, to even reverse threaded ones. Unfortunately, this makes it slightly difficult for Wardrivers, as well as antenna manufacturers.
The antenna manufacturers do not want to make 30 variations of the same antenna with different connectors. To get around this, they use a standard Type-N adapter. A pigtail is then used (see the FAQ about pigtails) to adapt from the Type-N to the specific connector on the wireless adapter.
has a good list of connectors for specific adapters. If you cannot find yours in that list, you can ask in the wireless forum and someone will most likely help you.
Why would I want a GPS?
If you have a GPS unit, you can attach it to your computer in order to log latitude/longitude coordinates of any signals discovered. This can be used later to generate your own maps, or upload your lists to sites such as »wigle.net
Also, if you have a mapping program, such as Streets and Trips or Mappoint, you can have live position tracking to show where you are (and how to get out whenever you're lost). In order to allow NetStumbler and the programs mentioned above to work, you will need a virtual communications port driver and a TCP/IP comm port server. Comfoolery is a common choice and will let you split one port to many virtual ports for the various programs to use.
What does an amplifier do?
An amplifier, like its name, amplifies wireless signals.
Most amplifiers also contain a preamp which amplifies the signals coming back in as well.
An amplifier is not necessary for Wardriving, but it can make detection easier from distances. One thing to consider before purchasing an amplifier is that while you may be able to get your signal out further, you still might not be able to hear the devices reply back.
Where should I place my external antenna?
If possible, place it on the roof of your vehicle.
If the antenna was placed inside the car, the signal stength would be weakend because it would have to go through the cars body. Also, if you start using higher powered antennas and wireless cards, you could be putting yourself at risk for health problems because the signal is bouncing throughout the car.
My laptop battery keeps dying in the car, what should I do?
The easiest approach is to purchase a 12VDC/120VAC inverter. These units will plug into your cigarette lighter plug in a car and produce 120 volts AC (the same thing that is in your house). You can plug your laptop charger into it and it will stay up as long as you need.
Where should I put my laptop when wardriving?
In some states, such as California, it is illegal to have a laptop in the front seat while the vehicle is moving. This law was obviously created in order to prevent people from getting into accidents because they were looking at a computer.
Realistically, nobody is going to pull you over unless you are actually looking at it. A good idea is to go wardriving with a friend so he can hold the laptop and monitor it. If you must go wardriving solo, then put the laptop under the seat or close the lid.
Is scanning for wireless networks illegal?
In most states, no.
It isn't illegal to scan for wireless networks. You're not trespassing into another persons property, when scanning.
Please check your states computer laws here
Is it illegal to connect to someone elses network?
In most states, yes.
If it isn't illegal in your state, it is still unethical, in many peoples opinion.
If you were caught connecting to someones network, without their permission, you could be charged with trespassing, or other various crimes, even if they don't directly relate to computers.
The analogy used is: "Can you go into someones house because their door is unlocked?".
6.0 Misc Info
The dangers of RF
People do not usually think about radio frequency signals as being dangerous, but they can be. Most wireless devices operate in the 2.4 GHz range, which is fairly close to those used by microwaves.
While the amount of RF emitted by a wireless adapter/AP is very low, depending on the gain of the antenna and output power it can still be dangerous. If you are using high gain equipment and/or amplifiers, you should keep the antenna outside of the car while operating and avoid holding it or using it close to your head.