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Hot Off the Wireless

NCJ Number
Date Published
3 pages
This article provides tips for police officers regarding the identification of persons who may be attempting to "hack" into a wireless computer network.
Hacking into a wireless computer connection is a means of gaining information on the owner for the purpose of identity theft, and it is a method of identity theft that is difficult to trace and prove. Wireless hackers, also called "WarDrivers," will drive around neighborhoods and office parks in hopes of finding an open wireless access point in a home or office, so they can break into it or "piggyback" off it from laptops in their vehicles. They break in, cause problems, and then drive away without leaving any evidence of what they have done. The National Institute of Justice's CyberScience Laboratory (CSL) has concluded that approximately 75 percent of all wireless access points are unencrypted and therefore vulnerable to anyone who wants to gain access to them. In attempting to identify WarDrivers in the course of their hacking attempts, patrol officers should look for such warning signs as occupied cars in office parking lots long after businesses have closed, people using laptops in cars, and WarDriving antennas. Features of commercial and makeshift WarDriving antennas are described in this article. In the course of stopping someone whom they suspect of WarDriving, officers should note the time and the license number of the car and report it to the unit or officer in their department that handles cybercrime cases. CSL staff encourage officers and consumers to learn about wireless security and take steps to safeguard their wireless access. Supplementary information for this article identifies wireless security risks and basic steps users can take to protect their wireless access points.

Date Published: January 1, 2004