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Wireless Networking Australia It's funny.  Laugh. Networking

Auto-Scanning the Names People Choose For Their Wireless APs 422

MichaelSmith writes "I code on the tram, going to and from work, and I noticed that there are a lot of WiFi access points along the way. So one week I made it my job to write an automatic scanner which runs from a cron job every minute during commuting times. My backup script pushes the new AP names to my web server and you can read it online. It is a mixture of the straightforward, naive and funny, with a few pop culture references along the way. The first column in the file is the number of access points with that name. The second column is the AP name, in brackets to pick up white space." Why can't "Dress Me Slowly" and "Domestic Bliss" just share an AP?
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Auto-Scanning the Names People Choose For Their Wireless APs

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  • answer. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2010 @08:47PM (#31553866)

    "dress me slowly" is a retro clothing store on Nicholson St in Fitzroy. The tram route is therefore route 96 in Melbourne Australia..

    What? This wasn't one me those tram spotters quizzes?

  • Re:Best SSID (Score:1, Interesting)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@j a w t h e s h> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @08:48PM (#31553870) Homepage Journal

    Ok, that's a lie, but I'm not going to post my real SSID here.

    Why not? Mine is "sharks.wireless", my parents one is "jungle.wireless". The one I'm not going to give is the one my brother has, because it's our surname.wireless. I wasn't very imaginative that day it seems. (Our surname is findable online: I just don't routinely post it on forums) The other names just reflect the naming schemes of the network: I use shark species and my parents network uses characters from Kiplings Jungle Book.

    They're all encrypted and if for some odd reason, some slashdotter might be close to where I live, he/she will still have to crack that encryption.

  • by scum-o ( 3946 ) <bigwebb@ g m a i l . com> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @08:49PM (#31553888) Homepage Journal

    Doesnt' netstumbler already do this?

  • by micksam7 ( 1026240 ) * on Saturday March 20, 2010 @08:52PM (#31553916)

    Not only is it legal, but it's been going on for a long while now [].

  • Why use cron? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @09:18PM (#31554064)
    You're missing out on a lot of SSIDs if you're only scanning once a minute. A simple "while true; do iwlist $options >> script1.txt; done" in a few scripts started a second or two apart will help catch more. Maybe set up a cron job to cat and sort -u them together occasionally.
  • Re:hi neighbor! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LiENUS ( 207736 ) <slashdot@vetmanag[ ]om ['e.c' in gap]> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @10:30PM (#31554514) Homepage
    block everything but http, do upside downternet and configure squid to limit bandwidth to 56k (or hell be nice give em 128k isdn) speeds. and block downloading .exe .zip .rar .7z yada yada yada
  • by shish ( 588640 ) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @10:38PM (#31554568) Homepage
    or for linux, kismet []
  • Re:Best SSID (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @10:46PM (#31554612) Homepage Journal

        Look around online a little bit. The 5 character SSID is generated from the MAC, and so is the key. You can extrapolate enough for the SSID and the known parts of the MAC to generate the key.

  • Re:Best SSID (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sirsnork ( 530512 ) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @11:29PM (#31554848)

    Along that train of thought I'm betting


    is also the key for this AP

  • Re:Best SSID (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @11:37PM (#31554876) Homepage Journal

        Oh, I definitely broadcast my SSID. I've run into the stomping into each other problem before. It's a pain to do a site survey of who's around, pick a channel, just to find out that there's other traffic interfering.

        I know mine is receivable for a longer distance than others in the neighborhood. When they installed it, I wasn't here, and they put the AP under a desk, with a metal file cabinet beside it. {sigh}. I moved it up on top of the file cabinet, and that (amazingly enough) fixed a lot of my problems. I'd guess the neighbors got theirs installed somewhere, and they left it exactly where it was placed.

        I've had to change my channel twice where I am now, because the defaults for whatever a neighbor installed were on my channel and ruined my throughput. I may look like a lunatic walking around the house with the laptop listening, but it tells me what channels are being used, and what are free. It's kinda funny, there are three near the house that are all on the same channel. I bet they wonder why their connection is terrible, but it's not mine to fix. That, and I'm not ambitious enough to go find their house and offer to fix it. I did that once in an office building. Someone turned on an AP and stomped on my traffic. I wandered around, found them, went to the receptionist for the company and asked to see whoever was in charge of IT. They were completely oblivious to what I was asking.

    "Who takes care of problems with your computers?"
    "I don't know"
    "Can you please find someone who does know?"
    "Because your access point is broadcasting over the legal limits for power, and is disrupting service for other occupants of the building."
    "What's an access point?"
    "It's the device that handles wireless network traffic."
    "I don't think we're on a network."
    "Can you go to web sites?"
    "Then you're on a network. Can you find the person who runs it"
    "No one here knows." (without asking or even picking up the phone)

    The conversation went on for a few more minutes, before I just gave up.

    I didn't know positively that they were over the legal limits, but since I had a good signal from their office several floors below, and even a good distance from the building, I figured they were doing something they shouldn't be. At least when I've put high gain antennas on, I look around, make sure I won't interfere with anyone, and use a very narrow beam antenna (i.e., a good parabolic), that doesn't come close to any other buildings. When I went hunting for my own signal in that circumstance, I couldn't even pick it up at ground level standing under the receiving antenna, 20' below it. I've only done that on long point-to-point connections, not as a general AP in an office building.

  • Re:Best SSID (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @11:55PM (#31554958) Homepage Journal

        That's what it came with? I guess they're doing better practices since word got out that their encryption was amazingly weak. Too bad they can't go back and fix up all the existing installs.

        I'll use an example one.

    SSID: YVFS1 (just made it up, don't get your hopes up)

    Could have the WEP key of:


    That only depends on which series it was. There are two known groupings, and a third that the generator I have doesn't do, but it'd be easy enough to code into it.

    For people I know, I've gone in and changed both their SSID and key, so they're stronger than average. :)

  • Re:Best SSID (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Sunday March 21, 2010 @01:44AM (#31555394) Homepage Journal

    So it seems that someone wanted to survey the names people use for wireless access points, but was too lazy to do the research, so they put up a Web site with some fake data and posted to Slashdot in the hopes that everyone would post their clever names as comments.

    Guess it worked... ;-)

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @02:34AM (#31555572) Homepage Journal

    Sugar tits.

    I don't have her address. Just her mac address and general location.

  • by MoxFulder ( 159829 ) on Sunday March 21, 2010 @03:02AM (#31555654) Homepage

    I see these "Free Public WiFi" ESSIDs all over the place in public areas, such as airports. They never work. They're usually ad-hoc networks.

    I assumed for a while that they're symptoms/carriers of some kind of malware, but didn't really worry about it since I don't use Windows.

    I just read this article which has a slightly crazy but just-maybe-plausible theory to explain them []. They think that it's a weird, propagating out-of-control Windows XP feature, which makes every network to which an XP computer connects propagate its name as an ad-hoc network. And then when somebody else tries to connect because of the enticing name, they keep the ESSID alive for another minute since it's an ad-hoc network, and this continues ad infinitum. So the whole thing is nothing but a long-lasting "echo" of a forgotten network that keeps alive in heavily trafficked public areas. The whole idea seems nuts. Dumber than dumb. Dumber than Microsoft even.

    But I haven't heard of any better explanation for the "Free Public Wifi" phenomenon. Anyone else???

Only God can make random selections.