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Wardriving: How to Safeguard Against It?

Wardriving: How to Safeguard Against It?

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Researcher
 Published on August 8th, 2023
This post was updated on November 25th, 2023

Wardriving is a practice where individuals actively seek out wireless networks while moving around in a vehicle. The intention is to locate and utilize insufficiently protected networks or to map the location of networks for others to exploit.

It involves using a portable computer, smartphone, or personal digital assistant (PDA) to detect and analyze networks.

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The process also involves recording the network’s details, like signal strength and encryption type.

Technically, it is not illegal to map networks, but it is illegal to exploit unsecured networks without permission.

How to Safeguard Your Wi-Fi Access Point From Wardriving?

Wardriving involves individuals searching for Wi-Fi networks while driving, often with malicious intent.

Here are some steps you can take to safeguard yourself from wardriving:

First, ensure you’re using a robust encryption method like WPA3, the latest security standard, to safeguard your Wi-Fi access point from wardriving.

Change your default SSID name to something unique, avoiding names that give away your personal information or router brand.

Regularly update your router firmware, as manufacturers often release security patches.

Disable WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) as it can be easily exploited.

Lastly, reduce your signal range by placing your router in a central location or adjusting its power settings to minimize the likelihood of detection from the street.

Wardriving Examples

1. Smartphone Stroll

Consider a typical scenario where an individual takes a leisurely stroll around their neighborhood, smartphone in hand. The neighborhood is a mixed bag of private residences, local businesses, and perhaps even a school or government office. As the individual walks, their smartphone, a device most of us carry around, picks up various WiFi signals from the surrounding buildings.

The person has decided to use an application on their phone specifically designed to document key information about these detected networks. This information includes the network names (also known as SSIDs), their signal strengths, whether they’re password-protected or open, and, if encrypted, the type of encryption they use. This act of documenting information about virtually every WiFi network they encounter is the fundamental concept of wardriving.

It’s important to note that in this example, while the person may not have had any malicious intent, the information they collect could potentially assist some unsavory characters in exploiting vulnerable or unprotected networks. Therefore, it’s crucial to treat this information respectfully and responsibly.

2. City Drive

Another illustrative example of wardriving can be seen in an urban setting. Imagine a motoring individual armed with a laptop in their car. The laptop is no ordinary laptop, though. It is installed with specific software capable of scanning for all available WiFi signals within its range. With this setup, the individual set out on a drive into the city’s heart.

As the car moves through different city sectors, the laptop diligently picks up many WiFi signals. These could be from homes, offices, cafes, and even public WiFi spots provided by the city itself. The sophisticated software on the laptop detects these networks and records key information about them, such as their signal strengths, security levels, and whether they are open or password-protected.

In this scenario, the person’s intention might carry more sinister undertones. They may be out to detect poorly secured or entirely insecure networks. With the data they collect, they, or others they provide the information to, could potentially infiltrate these networks maliciously. This type of activity forms a darker side of wardriving, underlining the importance of adequately securing one’s wireless network.

3. Connected Taxi

Our third example presents a unique twist to the concept of wardriving. Envision urban taxis that offer on-board WiFi to their passengers for a seamless connected experience. This service becomes a unique selling point, attracting tech-savvy passengers and facilitating a better-connected city life.

However, there’s a flip side to this scenario. As the taxi moves around town, its WiFi equipment provides connectivity and scans for other networks. This constant scanning gathers data about every wireless network the car uses on its many rides around the city. The names of these networks, their locations, the strengths of their signals – all this information is being silently logged and created into a comprehensive map of all the wireless networks in the city.

On the surface, this may seem like a fairly innocuous activity. But in essence, this is an act of wardriving. And it underscores the breadth and diversity of methods with which this concept can be manifested. Surely, in this case, the intent may not be to exploit networks, but the collection and availability of such data underlines the importance of every network owner to secure their wireless networks appropriately.


These examples portray wardriving as an unbiased data-gathering activity and a potential tool for malicious intents. It strongly reminds individuals, businesses, and even cities to prioritize implementing reliable security measures for their wireless networks, thereby minimizing risks of unauthorized access and potential exploitation.

Key Takeaways

  • Wardriving is detecting wireless networks while on the move, typically by car, and documenting key details about these networks.
  • While not inherently illegal, wardriving can be utilized with malicious intent to exploit unsecured or weakly secured wireless networks.
  • Wardriving is a significant reminder of the importance of properly securing wireless networks.
  • Even seemingly ordinary scenarios like a casual stroll, a taxi ride, or normal city commutes can facilitate wardriving.
  • Adequate security precautions for wireless networks are essential, given the diverse methods potential attackers can use to identify and exploit them.

Related Questions

1. Is wardriving legal?

The act of detecting and documenting wireless networks through wardriving is not illegal. The illegality lies in exploiting the networks detected without the owner’s informed consent.

2. How can I protect my wireless network from wardriving?

Ensuring the use of strong encryption methods, like WPA2 or WPA3, for your wireless network and setting up a unique, hard-to-guess password can provide a respectable level of protection.

3. What’s the difference between wardriving and war chalking?

While wardriving involves actively detecting and documenting wireless network information, war chalking is the practice of marking locations where public WiFi spots have been detected with symbols for other people to see and use.

4. Why is it called “wardriving”?

The term “wardriving” originates from “war dialing,” a method presented in the 1983 film “WarGames,” where a computer would dial every number in a local area to find modems. Wardriving takes this concept to WiFi networks.

5. Does wardriving require sophisticated equipment?

Not necessarily. Basic wardriving can be conducted with devices like laptops, smartphones, or PDAs equipped with wireless networking capabilities and special software or apps.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional
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