Wireless Internet users may not know that it's easy for outsiders to read their email or scoop up passwords or other sensitive information.
Secretly using a stranger's Wi-Fi connection is so easy that sniffing out open connections has become a sport among computer hackers.
At a recent conference in Las Vegas, wireless network enthusiasts, known as "wardrivers," had two hours to find 1,000 wireless networks in one of many contests that test their prowess.
Hackers ogled high-powered antennas that can pick up signals from over a mile away, and promoted wardriving Web sites like Wigle.net that map millions of wireless access points, or "hotspots," around the globe.
Hacking the Defcon conference's own wireless network proved popular as well -- organizers said they fended off some 1,200 attempts to compromise network security.
Wardrivers say the goal is not to steal bandwidth or spy on unsuspecting Internet users, and they frown upon those who do so. Rather, they hope to convince consumers and equipment manufacturers to improve the dismal state of wireless security.
"We're trying to raise awareness. Security, by default, should not be turned off," said an Edmonton, Alberta wardriver who goes by the name Panthera.
Wireless routers, many costing less than $100, enable consumers to surf the Web from their back yard or living room couch. With a range of several hundred feet, a Wi-Fi signal can reach to the street or surrounding houses, allowing neighbors to get online too.
Equipment sellers like Wardrivingworld.com say they do a lot of business with truckers and Winnebago owners as well as war drivers.
"People think truckers just drink beer and eat chili and belch, but 800 truck stops across the United States have wireless access," said Wardrivingworld.com co-founder Matthew Shuchman.
Hotspot owners can set passwords, encrypt their traffic to deter eavesdroppers, or limit network access only to specified computers... (Continued Here) Source