Code red! Hackers now hit the road for mischief
Network Leakages At Residences Offer WarDrivers Easy Hotspots
EVER done WarDriving? This isn’t about driving into a war zone. Rather, it’s circling the city with a WiFi laptop sniffing out wireless networks to gain illicit internet access. You may have got a WiFi access point at home, but someone else could be happily surfing or making free calls on your internet connection.
And chances are that a WarDriver hacking a bank may get away with it, leaving the WiFi owner the suspect. Thousands of clueless people, including those in tony apartments with wireless internet, have leaky networks—allowing anyone on the road easy access to the Web.
Driving around in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi and other cities with a WiFi laptop will throw up many ‘hotspots’, though officially there may be none. That’s thanks to the many unsecured residential WiFi access points, which send signals beyond the apartment walls. These in effect allow pranksters and hackers to piggyback on others’ wireless internet network.
Twenty-six-year-old Delhi IT professional Sumit Grover often goes WarDriving when off from work. He routinely comes across home networks that anyone can use. “The actual users don’t even know that someone else is on their network, surfing the Net for free,’’ says Mr Grover. Downloading heavy files may impact the unsecured person’s speed of internet access, but a routine email check won’t slow the home network. And the intrusion could go unnoticed with most ‘victims’ suffering no loss, unless a hacker is on the job.
Incidentally, WarDriving was named after the term wardialing from the 1983 film WarGames, which involved searching for computer systems with software that dialed numbers randomly to see which ones were connected to a computer or fax machine. Some expert speak
HERE’S some expert speak to help check those villains riding on your WiFi. “WiFi has multiple levels of encryption (digital passwords)—from no encryption to 64-bit to 128-bit encryption. For secure internet access, users need to make use of the security features. Home networks can be broken into by hackers, as users may not be that aware or concerned about an infringement,” says Bangalore-based Tejas Networks’ marketing head Siva Ramamoorthy.
There are no official figures available but experts reckon that about 10-15% of India’s 2.5-million-odd broadband users have wireless networks at home. And this market is growing at 20-25% a year.
Many of these unsecured networks (where encryption is poor or non-existent) can be misused with owners caught unawares. A home WiFi access hub with built-in security features are available for Rs 3,000 to Rs 6,000 with vendors like Linksys, D-Link, NetGear among the leading players. Some unbranded access hubs are available at cheaper rates—for about Rs 1,000—but these often don’t lack security features.
Says Cisco India’s national business development manager for wireless Paramjit Puri, “I believe that one out of every 10 broadband homes in India have WiFi. Home networks may not be as secure as enterprise networks, leading to spillage. Also, home users may not have the resources to put ghost checks or random checks to detect any misuse.”
Agrees Tulip IT Services director Deepinder Bedi: “Laptops come with built-in WiFi. Access points are easy to get. Most people at home use basic security which can be broken into, compromising documents and leading to identity thefts. The problem is often not with the equipment, which manufacturers claim, has improved over the last 12-18 months, but with the lack of awareness about securing the home wireless network. A more trusty method would be to use data cards and USB modems, suggests Tata Teleservices COO (Delhi-NCR region) Debashis Sur. “A lock code ensures 100% privacy while providing a wider access,’’ says Mr Sur.
For those opting for WiFi, better encryption and random checks could help keep hackers and freeloaders at bay. Occasionally engaging friendly WarDrivers to check for wireless leakages may also be a good idea.
Publication:Economic Times Delhi; Date:Sep 19, 2007; Section:Front Page; Page Number:1