What’s Access Point Mapping?

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Access point mapping, also known as war driving, is the unauthorized use of unsecured wireless LANs. GPS technology is used to locate open networks, which can be used for anything from checking email to obtaining business documents. To prevent access point mapping, businesses and individuals should use built-in security technology and set up a firewall. Some municipalities and organizations are making wireless networks available for a fee or free of charge to reduce the use of access point mapping.

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 look for open wireless networks.

Once discovered, open networks can be used for anything from obtaining business documents to simply checking e-mail. Many wireless networks remain open to anyone in the area because the people or businesses that use these networks don’t find it necessary or useful to take additional security measures. Others are unaware of the potential security risks of leaving a network unsecured.

GPS technology is used for mapping access points, making it easier to locate these networks. The war driver can place wireless networks on a map and publish it using internet technology such as Google Maps or Yahoo.

To keep wireless access restricted to those for whom it is intended, it is recommended that businesses and individuals use built-in security technology, including passphrases, to secure their wireless LANs. At some point, protocols like WiFi equivalent privacy (WEP), Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), or WiFi Protected Access (WPA) were enough. Over time, however, exploits are created and encryption technologies are compromised. Make sure you are using the latest and most secure method to protect your computer or network.

In addition to protecting wireless access from unauthorized use, network operators are also encouraged to set up a firewall behind the wireless access point. This will add an extra layer of security to prevent data on a wireless network from ending up somewhere it doesn’t belong.

Access point mapping is completely preventable if simple steps are taken to secure wireless networks. Some organizations also restrict which physical devices 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 card when it was manufactured. Another way to prevent access point mapping is to list the MAC addresses for all allowed devices within your wireless router or access point. This way you can restrict connections to listed MAC addresses only or deny connections to 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 corporate data and should be protected whenever wireless networks are used. Some municipalities and organizations are making wireless networks available for a fee or even free of charge to customers or residents, which could easily reduce the use of access point mapping for Internet access. Unfortunately, attackers can still use access point mapping technology to attempt to obtain trade secrets or corporate information.

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