What is Wardriving and How To Protect Your Network

Everything You Need to Know About Wardriving

Wardriving is the practice of physically searching for unsecured wireless networks or networks that can easily be compromised. It is also known as access point mapping as the goal is to identify potential access points from which to connect to WiFi networks. According to, the term originates from the movie War Games where attempts were made to locate random phone lines connected to a modem in order to gain network access.

What is Wardriving?

Wardriving is commonly perpetrated by individuals driving around in a vehicle while using software and hardware that assists them in locating unsecured networks. The use of a vehicle is not required, and wardrivers can also scan for networks to attack when on foot, on a bicycle, or even by using aircraft. Whatever method of transportation is used, the goal is to secretly penetrate WiFI networks.

Taking the original idea from War Games and naming it wardriving is credited to computer security consultant Peter Shipley. He developed Perl scripts in 2000 which interacted with a GPS to automate the procedure that was to become wardriving.

The ability to plot WiFi access points on a map allowed networks to be found without the need to keep track of the driver’s physical location. He found that among the networks that he identified, only about 15% were protected by encryption. The vast majority of WiFi networks were unprotected and offered unscrupulous individuals the opportunity to access and compromise them and their attached computers and devices.

The simple act of surveying the area and gathering data on wireless networks is, in itself, not considered illegal in the U.S. Actually accessing networks that are not intended for public use does expose the wardriver to potential criminal prosecution. The charges will be determined by the locale in which the unauthorized access occurred as well as the intent of the network intruders.

Wardrivers who are successful in gaining access to your network may be interested in stealing your passwords, banking information, and other sensitive data. They may use their entry into your network to install malware that can use your computer for purposes which are not in your control and could put you at risk of legal consequences.

Hardware and Software Tools for Wardriving

In order to perform WiFi driving successfully, you need to use some specialized software or hardware. There are no hard and fast rules regarding what type of devices or software are used by your friendly neighborhood wardrivers. Let’s take a look at some of the tools that are used in wardriving.

Hardware Tools for Wardriving

There are several hardware components that are required in order to practice wardriving.

  • A mobile device

You need a mobile computing platform in order to conduct wardriving activities. This includes laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices such as the Raspberry Pi. These perform overall management of the process and are used to subvert encryption.

  • Wireless network card and antenna

These are a critical part of the wardriving setup. The wardriver may use the card and antenna built into their mobile device or may opt for additional hardware in order to increase their scanning power. This component provides the ability to remotely monitor the discovered networks.

  • GPS system

The GPS system is used to determine the exact location of the WiFi routers that have been located. Many of the mobile devices used for wardriving have built-in GPS capabilities.

Software Tools for Wardriving

The primary piece of software which is employed in wardriving is an application that will be used in an attempt to crack the passwords of WEP and WPA encrypted networks. There are many such programs available for use on whichever operating system you prefer. Here are a few of the more popular apps that are used by wardrivers to bypass network security, according to

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of software applications that can be used to hack into a WiFi network but does give an overview of some of the more popular choices if you are considering taking up wardriving as a hobby.


Only available for the Mac platform, this tool scans networks passively and can be used to crack WEP and WPA keys through a brute force attack.


This very popular application is a wireless password cracking tool that is used worldwide. It captures and analyzes data packets in an attempt to recover passwords. It is optimized to perform WEP password attacks much more quickly than many other tools. It runs on many operating systems including  OS X, Windows, and Linux.

Cain & Able

Here is another popular tool that is used to crack the passwords of WiFI networks. It works by intercepting network traffic and then attempting to discover the passwords through a brute force attack.


This tool runs on the Linux platform and is an automated tool for conducting dictionary attacks to crack WPA encrypted passwords. It is slower than some other tools and only provides a command line interface.


This tool is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. It performs fast, automated phishing attacks on wireless networks in an attempt to steal passwords.

Protecting Your Network From Wardrivers

The overriding factor that makes a WiFi network attractive to a wardriving party is the lack of adequate security. A network that is securely protected will be impervious to these types of attack or at least make it so difficult to access that the attackers will find another, more easily compromised target.

Here are some steps that you can use to protect your network and its data from wardrivers. Failure to secure your network properly leaves you open to having intruders steal your personal information or use your devices for illegal purposes.

According to security experts at McAfee, these are some of the best ways to protect your WiFi network from the risk posed by wardrivers.

  • Change your router’s administrative password – The default passwords for many routers are easily available on the web. Operating your router with the default credentials makes it a trivial exercise for a hacker to gain access to your network.
  • Enable encryption – You should insist on a router that enables you to set WPA or WPA2 encryption. Use of WEP level encryption should be avoided as it is easily cracked through the use of the tools mentioned above.
  • Use a firewall – A firewall monitors attempts to access your system and only allows a connection by approved sources. It can stop unauthorized users from accessing your system.
  • Shut down your wireless router when not in use – If you will be gone or will not be using the network for an extended period of time, just shut it down. This will eliminate the possibility of wardrivers discovering and attacking it.

These methods of protecting your network from wardrivers are also the best practices for securing your network from any type of unauthorized access. Networks that are not encrypted are a prime target for hackers. Secure your systems and your network by always ensuring that the highest level of encryption available on your router and devices is being used.