Drive by hacking becomes more common - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Drive by hacking becomes more common

People who know what they're doing with a computer can observe your network data. People who know what they're doing with a computer can observe your network data.
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May 6, 2004

Albany -- Drive-by's are a growing problem across America, but not the type you may be thinking of. It's drive by hacking. Criminals use their laptops and an antenna to drive past your house and steal information from your computer.

It's the latest high-tech crime to hit city streets. A crime that's growing as our dependency on technology grows. More specifically our need to be wireless.

"You can have wireless Internet access throughout your house without having to run cables. The problem is wireless networks are very insecure," say Jeff Watts of Smartronix an information technology and security company.

Hackers can break into your wireless network and read your private information while driving past in their car. A drive by hacking can be done with things you can buy almost anywhere.

"All you need is a laptop a $50 card and software you can easily download off the Internet," says Watts.

With that, a GPS device, and a $ 50 antenna you can be a hacker.

To see how big a problem unsecured wireless networks are locally we drove down a main road in Albany with Watts.

Within a matter of minutes his equipment was picking hundreds of open network access spots ripe for the hacking.

"Once you're there you can sniff all there traffic. You can check their passwords, user names and all their data going across. There is just all types of stuff you can see," says Watts.

During our ride we found everything from major hotel chains to public school buildings that could be vulnerable to a hacker. Watts says there are things you can do protect your network.

  • When you buy your wireless equipment, change your manufacturer's default password. The default is a password many computer hackers already know.

  • Activate your encryption software. Most wireless technology comes with this software, but it's up to you to turn it on.

  • Lastly, turn off your Service Set Identifier or the SSID, also referred to as the network name. This name identifies a wireless network as "MAJOR HOTEL " or "WALB." If the SSID is not on, the name of the network will not be broadcast.

Experts say the popularity of wireless networks has almost tripled over the last few years. If you want more information about a secure wireless network contact the Smartronix Web Site .

posted at 5:22PM by scott.hunter@walb.com