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What is a Wardriver?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2016
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A wardriver is a person who uses a portable computer or wireless Internet device to locate open wireless Internet connections for the purpose of logging the locations of the wireless access points. This practice is usually done while driving or riding in a moving vehicle.

Contrary to popular belief and media use of the term, a wardriver only collects information about the locations of wireless Internet connections. Wardriving does not involve making unauthorized use of the Internet service. A wireless Internet seeker who logs onto the service and uses it without permission is called a piggybacker.

This practice is often used to locate free wifi for personal use or to catalog available wireless Internet connections for an Internet directory or website. Though wardriving can be done slowly and inefficiently using the basic Internet search on an Internet-capable phone or portable computer, a seasoned wardriver usually uses software designed specifically for wardriving. Wardriving software is available for a wide variety of laptops, smart phones, and other devices that receive wireless Internet. Packages of wardriving software include WarLinux, Kismet and iStumbler. In addition to wardriving software, wardrivers often use global positioning systems (GPS) to more easily pinpoint and record the location of the access points.

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Questions with legality tend to plague wardrivers, because wardriving is often seen as unauthorized network access, and many communities have made unauthorized access to a network illegal. Wardriver defenders contend that wardriving is not unauthorized network use; it is simply cataloging data about available wireless connections. Though a wardriver does not access or use a network while cataloging, performing the practice can still place the wardriver at risk of arrest and attempted prosecution. Determining whether wardriving is legal depends on local laws, and can often come down to whether the software seeking the connection communicates directly with the device while searching.

The term "wardriver" is a play on "wardialer", a term which originated in the 1983 movie WarGames starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. In WarGames, a wardialer dials many random phone numbers with a computer, hoping to find a working modem with an active connection. Internet searching on the move is not confined to four-wheeled motor vehicles. While "wardriving" can be used to refer to the act of seeking out and logging wireless access locations on a bike, conducting such a search on a bike is usually called warbiking. Wireless Internet searches conducted on foot are called warwalking or warjogging.

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