War driving sparks wireless treasure hunt in Dublin

2 Mar 2005

War driving — the refined art of finding and using unsecured private wireless local area networks (WLANs) – will be rife across Dublin City this weekend as part of a high-tech treasure hunt competition.

Entitled WaveHunt, the competition is the Irish adaption of US hacker society DefCon’s RunningMan competition and is being organised by RedBrick, Dublin City University’s student networking society. RedBrick is one of the largest student networking society in Ireland, boasting some 1,000 members.

The aim of the competition, which takes place this Saturday in Dublin City, is to test individuals’ network and direction-finding skills and win some money in the process.

Individuals and teams of two people will be given an hour to locate a hidden moving wireless access point somewhere between Temple Bar, Stephens’ Green Park and Stephens’ Green Shopping Centre.

Entrants must use data and graphs from their laptops or PDAs to track and positively identify the person carrying the wireless access point.

It is understood that the customised wireless access point will be serving a small website upon which there will be a question. This question, combined with the knowledge of who the carrier is, will give the entrants the answer they need in order to win. Winners will be decided by the fastest times to report the correct answer over two to three varying runs of the competition.

The first price will be €200 and a copy of War Driving: Drive, Detect, Defend, A Guide to Wireless Security autographed by co-author Frank Thornton. The second price will be €100 and the third prize will be €50.

To partake potential war drivers will be required to preregister by emailing wavehunt@redbrick.dcu.ie and must meet up this Saturday at Planet Cyber Cafe, 13 St Andrew’s Street at 11am.

According to Charlie von Metzradt, war driving in Ireland is still in its infancy but the phenomenon is growing in popularity. “Particularly among the tech community it is. Anyone interested in wireless networking and data security would be keen to see how many wireless points are available anywhere.”

Von Metzradt said that there is a worrying trend that the rising number of people deploying WLANs at home or in business are failing to switch on the encryption settings of their wireless networks. “Yesterday, I was passing through Dublin and I picked up 10 wireless access points and only four of them had any kind of security.”

He said that while malicious hackers would still be unable to access banking websites even using techniques such as keystroke logging, the ability is there to access email and website passwords. “At present hackers in Ireland would access WLANs purely just out of interest. There is not much evidence of malicious behaviour yet, but in time it could get worse.

“If one of your neighbours has broadband or DSL, you can easily piggyback and use their connection and they’d never know. People need to switch on the security settings of their access points. If you spend only half an hour setting up wireless access point then you’ve no problem and you can set a password and the security should work then.

“However, if someone wants to get in they will. Encryption will stop 95pc of hacker activity,” von Metzradt told siliconrepublic.com.

By John Kennedy