Wardriving

Wardriving is the act of searching for Wi-Fi networks from a moving vehicle. It involves slowly driving around an area with the goal of locating Wi-Fi signals. This may be accomplished by an individual or by two or more people, with one person driving and others searching for wireless networks.

Wardriving may be as simple as searching for free Wi-Fi using a smartphone inside an automobile. However, the definition usually applies to a hardware and software configuration specifically designed for locating and recording Wi-Fi networks. Wardriving equipment typically includes:

  1. A car or other automobile
  2. A laptop
  3. A Wi-Fi antenna
  4. A GPS device
  5. Wardriving software

A wardriver can use the items listed above to locate all the Wi-Fi signals in a specific area. The laptop runs the wardriving software, which communicates with both the GPS and Wi-Fi hardware. The GPS receiver records the current location as the car is moving, while the Wi-Fi transceiver detects signals of wireless networks present in each location. The antenna extends the range of the signal detection compared to a typical laptop. Wardriving software may record the location, signal strength, and the status of each network found (for example, if it is open or encrypted, and what type of encryption the network uses).

The goal of wardriving may be to find a single usable Wi-Fi network or it may be to map all Wi-Fi signals within a specific area. The latter is also called "access point mapping." While the act of wardriving itself may not be malicious, the data can be used to publicize and/or exploit open or unsecure networks. It is a good reminder to secure your own wireless network with a strong password so it cannot be accessed by strangers.

NOTE: The term "wardriving" comes from "wardialing," a systematic method of dialing phone numbers in search of modems popularized in the movie WarGames. "Warbiking," "warwalking," and "warrailing" are variations of wardriving.

Updated April 14, 2017

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