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Avoid Hacks with WLAN Security Tools

Several great WLAN security tools are available for both the Windows and UNIX platforms to help you avoid hacks. The UNIX tools — which run mostly on Linux and BSD — were notoriously a bear to configure and run properly, but that problem has changed in recent years in programs such as Kismet and Wellenreiter.

If you want the power of the security tools that run on Linux, but you’re not interested in installing and learning much about Linux or don’t have the time to download and set up many of its popular security tools, you should check out BackTrack. The bootable Debian-based Linux CD “automagically” detects your hardware settings and comes with a slew of security tools that are relatively easy to use.

Alternative bootable (or live) CDs include the Fedora Linux-based Network Security Toolkit. A complete listing of live bootable Linux toolkits is available at www.livecdlist.com.

Some tools for assessing wireless networks in Windows are as follows:

You can also use a handheld wireless security testing device, such as the handy Digital Hotspotter by Canary Wireless and even your Android-based phone or tablet with apps such as WiEye or WiFi Scanner. Apple, in its never-ending quest to protect people from themselves, no longer permits wireless scanning using iOS-based devices.

An external antenna is also something to consider as part of your arsenal. If you’re performing a walkthrough of your facilities to test for wireless signals, for example, using an additional antenna increases your odds of finding both legitimate and (more important) unauthorized wireless systems. You can choose among three types of wireless antennas:

  • Omnidirectional: Transmits and receives wireless signals in 360 degrees over shorter distances, such as in boardrooms or reception areas. These antennas, also known as dipoles, typically come installed on APs from the factory.

  • Semidirectional: Transmits and receives directionally focused wireless signals over medium distances, such as down corridors and across one side of an office or building.

  • Directional: Transmits and receives highly focused wireless signals over long distances, such as between buildings. This antenna, also known as a high-gain antenna, is the antenna of choice for wireless hackers driving around cities looking for vulnerable APs — an act known as wardriving.

As an alternative to the antennas described in the preceding list, you can use a nifty can design — called a cantenna — made from a Pringles, coffee, or pork-and-beans can. If you’re interested in trying this, check out the article at www.turnpoint.net/wireless/has.html for details. A simple Internet search turns up a lot of information on this subject, if you’re interested. One site in particular sells the Super Cantenna kit.

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