Wardriving Wireless Networks

Man texting and driving

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Around the year 2000, an engineer named Peter Shipley coined the term wardriving (sometimes spelled war driving) to refer to the practice of deliberately searching a local area looking for Wi-Fi wireless network signals. Mr. Shipley pioneered the practice of using an automobile, a Global Positioning System (GPS), and a mounted antenna to identify unsecured wireless home networks.

The Rise of Wardriving

When wardriving first became popular, relatively few people had installed residential home networks. Some engaged in wardriving in those days simply mapped the location any networks they found. Others with more malicious intent attempted to break into some of these networks. Some also participated in the related practice of warchalking — tagging nearby pavement with coded directions to allow others to find certain residential networks (usually, unsecured ones).

Wardriving was a controversial practice from the beginning, but it did raise awareness of the importance of wireless network security and more residences have since employed basic Wi-Fi security measures like WPA encryption. While some consider wardriving a fad whose time has passed, occasional high-profile events such as Google Street View scanning Wi-Fi networks in 2010 keep it in view.