Several years ago when wireless networks had just started taking off, I would take the family on an evening outing throughout the small town we lived in, scanning for open wireless networks (wardriving). The tool I used at the time was called Netstumbler. The software allowed you to scan the 2.4Ghz wireless spectrum that is used for WiFi, see what access points were close by and whether they were secured or not. What I found amazing at the time was the number of access points that were wide open, allowing anyone to connect to them and utilize the services that were on the network the access point was a part of. Nowadays, people are a bit smarter – but only just a bit.
Netstumbler was a bit shy on the feature set, but it did scan and that was the important point. Fast forward to 2011 and you’ll find that netstumbler hasn’t been updated for a few years. Somewhere along the line a new open source project was started to take what netstumbler did and kick it up a notch. That project was inSSIDer. The folks at MetaGeek host the project, which has had many contributors to the code. It’s now at version 2, which was completely re-written from the ground up by Tyler Adkisson. In full disclosure, Tyler is my son. He had been making contributions to inSSIDer 1 when MetaGeek released Channalyzer Pro. He was inspired by some of the features of the new version, so he endeavored to rewrite inSSIDer with some of those features in mind.
A few months later, inSSIDer 2.0 was born. inSSSIDer runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 (64 and 32bit). It uses your built-in wireless card, so there’s no additional hardware to buy or connect before you can scan the airwaves. It will work with most GPS devices so you can log the coordinates of the wireless devices you discover. It allows you to export the data so you can use it with services such as Google Earth. It’s a handy tool when you’re trying to set up an access point and you need to see what channels are clear of other access points so as to not have any interference.
So the next time you’re curious about what is actually in your WiFi wireless spectrum or if the neighbors were smart enough to set up their access point with encryption correctly, fire up a copy of inSSIDer 2. Take it for a spin through your neighborhood or your town (be sure to let someone else drive, however). You might just be surprised at the number of access points that are out there now. A lot more than there were in 2004, I can assure you.
Here is a simple walk through of using inSSIDer.