Many of us have WiFi Routers and although many people use encryption to password protect their wireless signal, they don’t know what protocol to use. The three most common are WEP, WPA, and WPA2. Of these three, WEP is the easiest to crack and gain access to. WPA2 should be used where possible, otherwise, WPA. If your computer won’t connect with WPA, you need to get a newer computer for daily use and throw that Windows 95/98/NT machine into a permanent spot with a wired ethernet cable or upgrade the wireless card. Chances are if your laptop is this old the battery is shot and it’s plugged in constantly anyhow.
WEP encryption is so easy to crack with today’s processors, it’s literally only a matter of time, twenty minutes, to complete a successful crack of a WEP encrypted network. The most common way to crack a WEP connection is to load a laptop with a specialized and minimized distribution of Linux, run some specific commands to start collecting data packets, and run those data through a cracking algorithm to decipher the encrypted password. It takes about 20 minutes to collect the necessary amount of data packets to run the cracking algorithm.
Because that isn’t easy enough for most people, a new product has come out called WiFi Robin which basically does all the steps in the last paragraph for you. All you have to do is wait.
The site is rich with how-to information, but is very slim on the legal implications of using such a device. The site appears to locate the company outside US borders, and as such is not subject to FCC regulations. However, using such a device in the US could violate FCC law, as well as other laws such as wiretapping, unauthorized entry to systems, and theft of services. Not too long ago, Google got in trouble with Germany for sniffing and collecting data packets from open WiFi networks it’s vehicles passed.
For all those of you with control of your WiFi networks, it is important to secure your signals for more reasons than keeping your neighbor from hogging your connection. In addition to each connection bleeding off your bandwidth, an open WiFi connection can leave the owner of that connection in the crosshairs of law enforcement. If an unauthorized user connects to a network and uses it for some nefarious purpose, it could trace back to the IP address of that cable/dsl connection and falsely implicate the connection’s owner. Until it get’s worked out, it could end up being a legal nightmare with jail-time and a sex offender registry listing as the stakes. Don’t think distance alone will keep someone from connecting. A homemade Yagi antenna made from a Pringles can, some threaded rod stock, and a bunch of washers can provide all the signal needed from as far as hundred yards away, and even further distances have been achieved.
While WPA and WPA2 can be also be cracked, the methods inherently take much longer due to the nature of the encryption implementation. While WEP takes only 20 minutes at minimum to crack, WPA and WPA2 will take hours if not days if the hacker is competent enough and the security password is weak. Cracking WPA and WPA2 require a Brute Force Attack that is very processor intensive.
So… Encrypt your WiFi Connection and use WPA or WPA2 with a nice long and strong passkey.