A favorite activity among hackers is breaking into wireless networks. It should theoretically be impossible due to encryption, but most users don’t bother to turn it on or even realize it should. This means that just making contact with the network is enough to gain access to it. This can be done by driving around with a laptop with WiFi and seeing if a connection can be made (the so-called wardriven), but with better tools it is of course easier.
Hackers built more powerful transmitters and better antennas to do this, so they could access a network from beyond the normal range. They were few handy devices: antenna, transmitter, battery and laptop. Assembling made it a bit easier to handle and, while there was absolutely no need for this, it often took the form of a gun, just because it was fun. As a result, these devices were given the name ‘WiFi guns’.
Like all electronics, they kept getting more compact and better, and the pinnacle of this trend so far was recently presented at the 2005 Defcon in Las Vegas: The Shmoo WiFi 802.11 gun. It consists of a Compaq iPaq PDA, a Compact Flash battery holder, a Seneao wireless network card, a 9dB antenna, a power controller, 1 watt amplifier and a battery pack. All this is mounted on a slingshot frame with pistol grip.
The performance of this nice looking device is without a doubt impressive. With the network discovery program Wellreiter and at full power, it finds networks up to miles away. It usually finds about 50 to 60 networks immediately. Because that’s usually way too much, there’s the adjustable attenuator that allows the power to be reduced so that a more manageable number of networks gets through. Under normal conditions, the battery will last approximately eight hours. Anyone thinking of purchasing one should bear in mind that using it is illegal.