What Is Wi-Fi “Wardriving” and How Can You Protect Yourself?

Man in a car using a tablet.
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War, what is it good for? Well, when we’re talking about wardrivingit’s away to find unsecured Wi-Fi, sometimes with malicious intent. Wardriving is hard to detect, but with preparation you can protect your home network from being targeted.

How Wardriving Works

The “driving” part in wardriving is quite literal. Hackers drive around in a car (or sometimes other vehicles like bicycles) with special equipment that maps out unsecured Wi-Fi networks

There are many different software tools in a wardriver’s arsenal. These include packet sniffers, network traffic analysis packages, and special software designed to crack Wi-Fi security.

Wardrivers also use special high-power antennas mounted on their vehicles that can detect Wi-Fi networks at long distances. Wardrivers use different types of antennas based on their needs. They also use portable computers such as laptops, or devices like the Raspberry Pi. They also need a GPS unit to map the locations of the vulnerable networks they discover.

What Happens in a Wardriving Attack

Driving around and collecting information about wireless networks is neither illegal nor a threat by itself. Wardriving attacks happen when that knowledge is weaponized to infiltrate those networks. If a remote attacker can log in to your Wi-Fi network, it means they’ll have access to the devices connected to that network. That includes computers, storage devices, cameras, and anything else with a network connection.

As you can imagine, strangers having this sort of access to your private network could be catastrophic, potentially causing severe data loss and financial damage. The good news is that you can audit the security of your Wi-Fi network to make it as hard as possible for wardrivers to break in.

How to Protect Yourself From Wardriving

Make sure your router doesn’t have a pending firmware update, and also make sure that both your router’s administrator password and the Wi-Fi password are custom, strong passwords. Each router’s menus look a little different, so consult the manual on the exact steps involved.

Most importantly, on your Wi-Fi network, choose the highest level of Wi-Fi security that’s available, such as WPA3. If your router doesn’t support the latest protocols, it’s time to replace it. Keep in mind though that some of your older Wi-Fi-connected devices might not support that higher level of encryption. You’ll have to decide whether you want to lower your security to accommodate such devices or replace them. Of course, you should check whether those devices have updates that might make them compatible first.

One last thing if you’re worried about people snooping on your Wi-Fi activity: When you’re using a public Wi-Fi network, consider using a VPN to prevent other people nearby from monitoring your network traffic.