Access point mapping is a technique used to exploit wireless networks by making unauthorized use of unsecured wireless lans. Also known as war driving, access point mapping involves driving around a city or neighborhood to search out open wireless lans.
Once open networks are located, they can be used for any purpose, from obtaining company documents to simply checking your email. Many wireless networks remain open to whomever happens to be in the area because the individuals or companies who use these networks do not feel taking additional security measures is necessary or worthwhile. Others are unaware of the potential security risks of leaving a network unsecured.
GPS technology is used for access point mapping, making these networks more easily to locate. The war driver can place wireless networks on a map and publish it using internet technology like Google maps or Yahoo.
To keep wireless access limited to those who it is intended for, it is recommended that companies and individuals use built in protection technology including pass phrases to secure their wireless lan(s). At one point, protocols like WiFi equivalent privacy (WEP), Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), or WiFi protected access (WPA) were sufficient. As time goes on however, exploits are created and encryption technologies are compromised. Be sure to use the latest and most secure method to protect your computer or network.
In addition to securing wireless access from unauthorized use, network operators are also encouraged to configure a firewall behind the wireless access point. This will add an additional layer of security to keep the data on a wireless network from ending up somewhere it does not belong.
Access point mapping is completely preventable if simple measures are taken to protect wireless lans. Some organizations also limit the physical devices that are allowed wireless access by preventing the assignment of access by a wireless device’s media access control (MAC) address. This address is the physical hardware address assigned to a network adapter at the time of manufacture. Another way to prevent access point mapping is to list the MAC addresses for all allowed devices within the wireless router or access point. Doing this can limit connections to only the listed MAC addresses or deny connections to the unlisted addresses.
As wireless access to networks and the Internet becomes more popular and more widely available, access point mapping is sure to gain some popularity because it offers free access to the Internet. This free access can also be used to compromise company data and should be secured whenever wireless networks are being used. Some municipalities and organizations are making wireless networks available for a fee or even for free to patrons or residents, which could easily cut into the use of access point mapping for Internet access. Unfortunately, malicious users may still use access point mapping technology to make attempts to obtain trade secrets or company information.