Experimental music, photography, and adventures


Thursday, August 16th, 2012

This post has been a long time coming. I started it back in spring of 2011, then got sidetracked. Here’s what I wrote them:

A combination of inspiration from Noah, being back in school, taking a “CyberSecurity” class, and getting a Netbook for school led me to try something different with my commute: Warbiking! Noah’s explanation of Warbiking (or WarCycling, as he calls it) is better than what I would come up with on my own, so I’m going to steal it. In this post, he says:

Wardriving: The act of driving around with scanning equipment, searching for wireless networks (usually of the 802.11 variety). The “War” part of the name comes from the age-old practice of setting up a computer to aggressively dial thousands of phone numbers in a row, looking for other computers or fax machines, or “War Dialing”. In and of itself, wardriving is not a malevolent practice. Wardriving, done passively, is totally legal in the US.

WarCycling, then, is the same tactic applied while riding a bicycle.

Current update

Warbiking is something I’ve been doing on and off since I wrote that. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s astounding how many networks you find. I know intuitively that there are thousands of wireless networks all around me, but it’s something else to see them all enumerated on a map.

I post the networks I find on wigle.net, a community site with a database that includes data about millions of wireless access points around the world.

This badge shows stats about what networks I’ve found. I added it to the sidebar of this blog:

Warbiking Setup

I started out using my Netbook running Linux, hooked to my Garmin eTrex Venture GPS. This works quite well and collects a lot of information about the networks. I now have an Android phone, so now I can use the Wigle WiFi app on my phone for warbiking/walking/etc. The Netbook is more accurate, collects more data, and probably sees more networks (though I haven’t done a direct comparison to verify this). But my phone is always with me, making it easy to start checking out wireless networks any time I want, without carrying the (relatively) bulky netbook.

Here you can see the Netbook/GPS on the left, and the Android phone on the right.

More recently, I’ve experimented with setting cameras up to take a photo every few seconds. I intend to try to correlate the photos with the network data, but I haven’t had a chance to do so yet.

One thing that’s very interesting is to load the data in Google Earth. I can then explore the networks within the Google Earth interface. Kismet even shows what clients were connected to the networks at the time I rode by.

8 Responses to “Warbiking”

  1. Chandra Says:

    Nice setup and what an interesting project you have picked, Michael.
    1) Is the Hero inside its waterproof case? Do you have the skeleton door on?
    2) How do you save your data, on memory cards or directly on the netbook?
    3) Given most households have a Wi-Fi these days, are you looking for Geospatial data in less populated areas, in particular?

    Even if you don’t find any significant correlations, given you drive your bike to find these nets, it is a win-win.

    Have fun!

    Peace 🙂

  2. Apertome Says:

    1. Yes, the Hero is inside its full waterproof case. Not sure what you mean by “skeleton door.”
    2. The Wifi data is saved onto the netbook. The GPS also records a track, and the cameras each record to their own SD card.
    3. Mostly I’m just trying to get a better sense of what’s around me. I have done one experiment riding out away from town and it sure was interesting to see what less-populated areas have in terms of wireless, including a couple in weird spots (i.e. in a remote location right by the lake).

  3. Matt Says:

    I’ve heard of this but I don’t understand the point. Can you tell me why you are “etting up a computer to aggressively dial thousands of phone numbers in a row, looking for other computers or fax machines”? Or are you just looking for wireless networks? Why?

    Understand, I’m not upset. I’m just not clear on why you’re doing this.

  4. Apertome Says:

    Matt, the short answer is: “it’s fun.” But there’s more to it than that.

    First, I should point out that this is fundamentally different from wardialing. I am not dialing numbers, I am just looking for wireless networks. With wireless networks, you are only collective data that’s already being broadcast, not dialing random numbers. When you are simply looking for wireless networks, you aren’t interfering with anything or inconveniencing people with bunk calls.

    These days, most folks have a wireless network in their homes and businesses — they’re ubiquitous. A lot of people think that these are private and secure, but are they really? This idea interests me greatly. I want to know what information we are all broadcasting — especially me. What could a guy with a smart phone know about me if he sat outside my house?

    I have also noticed some interesting results — networks in surprising places, or a particularly dense wifi grid in a trailer park. I am also interested in studying how the wireless ecosystem evolves over time, but I haven’t figured out a way to do this yet.

    There a lot of intellectual reasons why this interests me. It’s also amazing to look at a map and see just how many wireless networks are all around us every day that we take for granted. It’s one thing to realize they’re there, but seeing them mapped out is impressive.

  5. Fonk Says:

    Cool project (and setup) – really piques the interest of my inner geek. 🙂

  6. Chandra Says:

    By a Skeleton Door, I meant the door of the Hero waterproof case, that has two vertical slits in it, such as the one pictured here: http://gopro.com/camera-accessories/hd-skeleton-housing/.
    Peace 🙂

  7. Dan Says:

    OK, so I’m the old man of the group, but I have to say that the term “War Dialing” comes from the movie “War Games” where the young Matthew Broderick character dials one number after another looking for a modem signal, and stumbles on to a Norad computer named WOPR.


  8. John Says:

    Your a nerd. You know that, don’t you? 8>)

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