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Defcon: Warballooning goes ahead

Defcon: Warballooning goes ahead

The warballooning project demonstrated that a third of access points are still left unsecured, either by design or ignorance.

You've heard of wardriving, warwalking, and I'm sure someone out there has done warcycling and possibly even warcanoeing, but how about warballooning?

Network World reports that a team of hackers at the Defcon conference have successfully launched a balloon carrying a computer payload designed to seek out and map wireless networks on the ground via a high-gain antenna and GPS system, despite a few last-minute hiccoughs.

The team, lead by security consultant Rick Hill of Tenacity Solutions, designed the experiment as a longer-lived extension of a previous attempt to launch a model rocket fitted with WiFi-sniffing equipment. Despite having filed all the paperwork required, and having got approval from the Federal Aviation Authority for a launch close to the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, the balloon was nearly grounded when the management of the Rivera Hotel, site of the Defcon conference, pulled its permission for the launch to take place on its property.

With the permission slip from the FAA for a balloon launch depending on launching from the precise site detailed in the application, this could well have been a death blow for the project. Thankfully, Hill is a model rocketeer in his spare time, and well familiar with FAA regulations – in particular the part that states permission for a launch is only required within a five mile boundary of an airport. By hiring a van and clandestinely moving the now-technically-banned balloon outside the critical boundary – although Hill isn't saying exactly where – the launch was able to go ahead almost as planned.

The results of the experiment show that no matter how many examples of high-profile cybercrime perpetrated over badly secured wireless networks hit the news, there is still a worrying percentage of people who leave their access points completely unencrypted – either by design or through ignorance. Around a third of the wireless networks spotted along the famous Las Vegas strip were unencrypted and open for anyone to access.

We know that one of our own forum members has direct experience of the shady wardriver type, but is anyone willing to admit to 'piggybacking' onto a badly configured connection when you need 'net access in a pinch? Share your experiences over in the forums.

19 Comments

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DarkReaper 12th August 2008, 12:29 Quote
I was in Ohio for most of July and the host family I stayed with only had dial-up. Torturous, I tells ya.

Conveniently I'd picked up my new N95 8Gb just before I left, and it's amazing how many places had unsecured wifi. I could take a 5-minute walk through the suburbs and pass about half a dozen connections. A lot of churches and bars/restaurants seemed to have it too but they were usually secured
Mentai 12th August 2008, 12:42 Quote
Sure I piggyback if my home connection isn't available. I figure the people who leave their connections open are probably not heavy internet users anyway, a website here and there is unlikely to affect them at all.
Timmy_the_tortoise 12th August 2008, 12:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mentai
Sure I piggyback if my home connection isn't available. I figure the people who leave their connections open are probably not heavy internet users anyway, a website here and there is unlikely to affect them at all.

It's pretty stupid not to have it secured in the first place.
ParaHelix.org 12th August 2008, 13:49 Quote
Well, what can be said, secure it or share it, simple.
mclean007 12th August 2008, 14:22 Quote
If you've got unlimited data allowance and proper protection between your own private computers and the unsecured access point, why not let people use it for free?
MrMonroe 12th August 2008, 14:47 Quote
In other news, a third of wireless networks have nothing interesting or worth stealing attached to them anyway. We're talking about home networks for the most part here. Trying to steal something worthwhile from them would be like throwing darts at a board while blindfolded. You're only marginally likely to find something good, and it means driving around town with a laptop and stopping outside people's homes to dredge through their files. It's much more effective to crack open an encrypted network that you know protects something worth your time.
C-Sniper 12th August 2008, 15:35 Quote
I am known to piggyback on networks and depending on how badly i need it (i.e emergency) i have been known piggyback on protected (WEP/WPA/WPA2) wifi to get my data across, but then i am off as soon as i am done.
Colt 45 J 12th August 2008, 16:31 Quote
I admit I don't secure my wifi. The reason I don't... My house is too far away from any other house to have my wifi hacked, and if somebody wardrives its easy to see them outside my house...
p3n 12th August 2008, 17:15 Quote
connections (just for browsing etc) don't necessarily have to be secure - espcially with captive portals etc...
mclean007 12th August 2008, 17:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by C-Sniper
I am known to piggyback on networks and depending on how badly i need it (i.e emergency) i have been known piggyback on protected (WEP/WPA/WPA2) wifi to get my data across, but then i am off as soon as i am done.
Yah, sure. What sort of "emergency" required you to break someone's WEP? You must be some kind of 1337 h4x0rz.
phuzz 12th August 2008, 18:02 Quote
I'm always tempted to reconfigure and secure peoples connections, as most unsecured wifi connections tend to have default usernames and passwords on the router.
Our next door neighbours' wifi came in handy when our DSL was offline for a while, plus my DS can't cope with WPA encryption (WEP is far too easily crackable to be worth bothering with), so I use their connection for wireless play.
C-Sniper 12th August 2008, 19:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
Yah, sure. What sort of "emergency" required you to break someone's WEP? You must be some kind of 1337 h4x0rz.

When a grandma died and we needed plane tickets ASAP and we are at a house without internet. That is the only time i have done it. Other times i just use unsecured.
LAGMonkey 12th August 2008, 19:22 Quote
to answer if i "borrow" bandwidth. Yes yes and a bit more yes assuming that im not at home and my service is dead. I have to spend a lot of time in hotels and in Oman the price of internet is staggering at times, so if i get the oppertunity i will.
Having said that im in the middle of setting up my access point and router to provide freebe (albeit limited) internet access for anyone who needs it and is in range of my house. Oh and i use a combination of WPA2 and PPTP VPN for my home wireless :p
Mr T 12th August 2008, 22:28 Quote
I may have or may not renamed a few wireless networks when i was a student. They soon become secured once you rename them :)
Lazarus Dark 13th August 2008, 00:31 Quote
when I lived in an apartment, I'd use the neighbors wifi for my laptop and Wii since I was too cheap and lazy to buy my own wireless router. I figure I'm paying for the cable internet, we all share the same freakin line (during peak hours it was ungodly slow), so whats the difference really if I use one of the 5(!) unprotected wifi signals in my building, it's all the same bandwidth.
ZERO <ibis> 13th August 2008, 03:08 Quote
Unless they cut into my cat5 lines their not getting into network without a direct internet based attack.
ParaHelix.org 22nd August 2008, 15:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
Yah, sure. What sort of "emergency" required you to break someone's WEP? You must be some kind of 1337 h4x0rz.

Nevermind, he came up with some answer like "my grandmar died", bullshit, he sounds like one of these super uber leet 12 year old *crackers* who thinks he has cracked it by pressing the "Connect" button, protected? cracked? bull **** my friend.
ParaHelix.org 22nd August 2008, 15:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr T
I may have or may not renamed a few wireless networks when i was a student. They soon become secured once you rename them :)

Wow, my friend, I am honored to be in the presance of your UbEr L33TnEsS...not. Unsecured network, you log into the router (unsecured?) and change the name, OmFg L33t!
War-Rasta 24th November 2008, 13:42 Quote
I used to piggyback off of some store's wifi back in 2005. I was working in Nantucket for the summer and I spent most of the time outside the house working so I wasn't gonna pay for internet if was only gonna use it a little bit at night. This little store next to my house has an unsecured connection that I used whenever I needed access. It was usually at night so the store was closed anyway.

I've done it some other times after that on different locations and for different reasons (I'm not gonna try to come up with an excuse for it, I just wanted Internet and I wanted it right that instant). I think that as long as you're not doing any harm like deleting people's files or the like you're not doing anything REALLY bad. If they don't protect their network they should be glad that all you're doing is browsing the net.
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