More Ways to Share/Steal Wi-Fi

By Eric Griffith

May 30, 2007

Wireless social networking services and hacker hardware are the talk of the Web this week, but users should be careful where they connect.

The blogosphere is abuzz this week with a couple of new Wi-Fi related products, one which you may want to try out socially, and another you probably don’t want to touch with a ten-foot antenna.

First up is WeFi, another new community/social networking Wi-Fi product.  The Mountain View, California-based company’s software is in beta, but can be downloaded for Windows XP (use code: 07ApM81D3; but beware, it is a early beta).

The software, which resembles a standard instant messaging client, finds the nearest open Wi-Fi connections. You can map the locations to enter them into the WeFi database, or you can use the already-mapped access points to find a new place to log in. By mapping secure networks, users also know to skip over them.

In comments left at GigaOM, WeFi's CEO wrote, “Sharing is part of the story, but the main part is simply finding a good connection by making the WiFi client much smarter, which happens by seamlessly sharing the knowledge of all users in an area through a centralized server (not unlike what a cellular system does).” He says a Mac version of WeFi is in the works.

That other Wi-Fi-related product people are talking about this week? It’s called Slurpr. It’s a $1,347 (999 euros) box hand-built by Dutch hackers at Geek Technique. Why would you pay that much? Using six internal MiniPCI cards with Atheros Wi-Fi chips, it can connect to up to six unsecured Wi-Fi networks at once, and bonds the connections to provide one hefty data rate of 324 Megabits per second (in theory). Inside is 4GB of compact flash memory to hold the Debian operating system running it. Apparently, the plan for the future could include software needed to crack WEP encryption up to 128-bit.

They call the Slurpr ‘the mother of all wardrive boxes,’ but it's also no secret that more and more users are getting arrested for piggybacking on other peoples’ Wi-Fi connections, secured or not, in countries like Singapore and the United States. One Sparta, Michigan man was recently fined $400 and sentenced to 40 hours of community service for using coffee shop Wi-Fi without going into the shop. His punishment could have been a lot worse, even though he, the cops and the coffee shop owner didn’t know he was doing anything wrong at the time -- a check with the district attorney told them all different.

The moral is: be careful out there. Just because a network is open doesn’t mean you’re not going to get in trouble for using it, no matter how you connect.

For those who want to keep their Wi-Fi signals to themselves -- or to keep radio signals out -- and who feel their signal-blocking paint isn’t enough, they can try CPFilms’ new LLumar Signal Defense Security Film, a window film that supposedly will let light through, but not electromagnetic radiation. Added bonus: it makes glass less likely to shatter near an explosion. It’s a win-win.



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