One in Six Wireless Networks are Sitting Ducks

November 6th, 2006 by Strawp

A few weeks ago I got a bluetooth GPS module for my iPaq, just to play around with. Since Wififofum collects GPS data if it’s available, I’ve been recording wireless access point data as I’ve been walking about the town, commuting to work or driving.

The data I’ve gotten so far (about 600 access points) isn’t that useful on its own, but what’s really interesting is slicing the data in various ways and seeing what you come up with. To do this I built a new site: wifi.strawp.net into which I can upload the log files from wififofum. For a day or so I had the front page of the site plot location data of access points into Google Maps, searchable by SSID, manufacturer, channel etc, however I was advised by friends that doing so was probably a really bad idea, so this information is now on a login-only basis.

The fun part, which is still publicly available is the stats page. If you’ve got a friend that you’re trying to convince they need to secure their wireless network, link them to that page. You can currently see the most popular manufacturers, the most commonly used SSID and – my favourite – the number of access points that have their default SSID and appear to have no encryption set. This is currently at just over one in six (16.9%), which is quite frankly frightening. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the best place to look if you want to stumble across one of these access points is a suburban area where if Coventry is anything to go by, you’re likely to find an insecure access point on any street you care to walk down.

If you’re still wondering what the issue is, the BBC’s The Real Hustle did a very neat little feature on why you should use WPA encryption on your network.

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