Archive for July, 2005

A Brief History of WarDriving

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

War dialing or wardialing is a method of automatically scanning telephone numbers using a modem, usually dialing every telephone number in a local area to find out where computers or fax machines are available, then attempting to access them by guessing passwords.

ToneLoc was a popular wardialing computer program for MS-DOS written in the early to mid-1990s by two programmers known by the pseudonyms Minor Threat and Mucho Maas. The name ToneLoc was short for “Tone Locator” and was a word play on the name of the rap artist known as Tone Lōc. The utility was created for the purpose of scanning for dial tones or modem carriers in order to find PBXes, long distance carriers, or other modems.

In the cracking scene of the 1980s, demon dialing was a technique by which a computer would repeatedly dial a number (usually to a crowded modem pool) in an attempt to gain access immediately after another user had hung up.

Wardriving is searching for Wi-Fi wireless networks by moving vehicle. It involves using a car or truck and a Wi-Fi-equipped computer, such as a laptop or a PDA, to detect the networks. It was also known (as of 2002) as “WiLDing” (Wireless Lan Driving, although this term never gained any popularity and is no longer used), originating in the San Francisco Bay Area with the Bay Area Wireless Users Group (BAWUG). It is similar to using a scanner for radio.

Many wardrivers use GPS devices to measure the location of the network find and log it on a website (the most popular is WiGLE). For better range, antennas are built or bought, and vary from omnidirectional to highly directional. Software for wardriving is freely available on the Internet, notably, NetStumbler for Windows, Kismet for Linux, and KisMac for Macintosh.

Wardriving was named after wardialing (popularized in the Matthew Broderick movie WarGames) because it also involves searching for computer systems with software that would use a phone modem to dial numbers sequentially and see which ones were connected to a fax machine or computer, or similar device. (Audio commentary on the Wargames DVD says that wardialing was named after the movie and the software did not openly exist before the movie.)