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[ISN] Alberta hackers find wireless networks wide open
By JACK KAPICA
Globe and Mail Update
Tuesday, September 3
Alberta hackers have discovered that two-thirds of the province's
wireless computer networks are operating with an unsecured connection.
The results were collected during a highly unorganized "international
wardriving day" held Saturday in Red Deer, Alta.
"Wardriving" - sometimes called "net stumbling" - is a game that grew
out of an earlier activity called "war dialing," which was popularized
in the 1983 movie War Games. In that film, software was used to dial
many phone numbers automatically, looking for lines that are answered
In "wardriving," hackers drive around with computers outfitted with
wireless connectors searching for signals based on a standard called
802.11b, which has become very popular in both offices and homes where
computers are networked. Also called WiFi, the high-frequency networks
have an effective range of about 30 metres but can extend much
The aim of "wardriving" is to find a network that has not been
encrypted, one that allows any passerby equipped with a device using
the 802.11b standard to log in without effort.
Organizer Jason Kaczor said that of the 495 wireless networks his
group found on its brief day-long tour through parts of Alberta, only
172 - 34 per cent - are encrypted. The remaining 66 per cent are
In the Alberta version of "wardriving day," three vehicles cruised
through Red Deer.
Between 6 a.m., when Mr. Kaczor left Calgary for Red Deer, and 8 a.m.,
he said he found more than 300 wireless networks. Within the first 90
minutes he spent in Red Deer, he found about 40.
"Almost everything found within Red Deer is open," he said.
There were some initial errors, he said, because a number of the
machines he found that had been named "home" and secured with
encryption were probably field laptops used by a construction company.
Hackers in other cities searched for wireless networks the same day.
In Baltimore, Maryland, their efforts were frustrated by heavy rain,
which dampens the signals used by the wireless devices.
"We know from previous experience in both Calgary and Edmonton that
this is only the surface," said Mr. Kaczor. "I've personally only been
through a tiny portion of Calgary, and then I was not even venturing
deep into suburbia.
"Saturday morning I was picking the low-hanging fruit. The University
of Calgary has about nine or 10 wireless access points, only three of
which were encrypted. Not good."
All of the networks at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in
Calgary, however, are encrypted, he added.
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