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The Internet Security Wireless Networking Technology

Sniffing the Wireless Traffic of MIT Students 218

An anonymous reader writes "Someone got permission to sniff the wireless traffic during an MIT class. The professor: none other than Robert Morris, creator of the first Internet worm! The lecture: computer security! I love it."
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Sniffing the Wireless Traffic of MIT Students

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  • by gront ( 594175 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:09PM (#32281626)
    Yes. Absolutely.

  • by oddTodd123 ( 1806894 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:13PM (#32281708)
    Wikipedia will do this to you. I clicked the link for Robert Morris, followed links to read about his first startup, and found their original business plan, which contained this gem in their list of needs, dated 8/24/95:

    2. Secure server software ($5000). This does not seem to be an absolute necessity; there are a lot of sites on the web where you can send your credit card number unencrypted, and to date there have been no reports of the numbers being stolen. But catalog companies may *believe* that a secure link is necessary, and spending this $5000 would give Webgen a much more professional look.

  • Money well spent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Reason58 ( 775044 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:13PM (#32281710)

    I got permission from Robert Morris and Sam Madden to monitor the wireless traffic during their Computer Systems Engineering class and made an announcement at the beginning of a class period explaining what I’d be doing.

    He told everyone up front he was going to do this and people were still chatting, watching TV, reading about Warcraft, and updating their blogs. Just imagine how bad it would have been if he hadn't said anything. I bet some hard working people who were rejected by MIT are really happy to read this.

  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:16PM (#32281752) Homepage
    from TFA: "...monitor the wireless traffic during their Computer Systems Engineering class and made an announcement at the beginning of a class period explaining what I'd be doing."

    So does this represent what would really be so if he hadn't told them ahead of time?
  • by punit_r ( 1080185 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:30PM (#32282016)

    CRAWDAD [] is a community based effort of sharing data captured on a wireless network, only after anonymizing. This has proved to be very useful to the research community in general.

    Very real statistics about the protocols used and the kind of traffic patters observed over a period of time can be observed from the data sets. All of this with users not being very conscious of their activities. I say this because some of the data sets are for durations as long as 5 years. It is a lot easier to avoid surfing pron for a 45 minute lecture than to avoid it altogether for the entire duration of stay on campus. Having said that, I am sure some of the detailed statistics like popular IM clients, top 20 websites etc can not be found out from the CRAWDAD traces.

  • Re:Thank you, Apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:36PM (#32282094)

    Tsk, tsk. Mod MIT -1 overrated. I sure wouldn't pay out my ass to send my kids there. []

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:37PM (#32282114) Homepage
    out what this article is actually about, and why i should give a shit...famous professor at expensive college gets approval for lesson plan related to security?

    in college to demonstrate secure passwords, i had a professor run john the ripper on our auth hashes in shadow. live-fire security demonstrations are always a good tool in college because it provides a route for hands on learning and a finer appreciation of the subject matter, but its no different than an accounting or finance class being asked to bring their tax returns in.
  • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:50PM (#32282320)
    That sounds awesome. A hell of a lot better then my ComSci department that made us write out code on paper for the tests.
  • WWW != Internet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mostly Harmless ( 48610 ) <> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @01:51PM (#32282324) Homepage
    From TFA: "Using the Internet means a lot more than HTTP traffic!"

    Maybe that's because the Web != the Internet? I know that the Web represents most of the active time many people spend on the Internet, but really? When did the two become synonymous?
  • by korean.ian ( 1264578 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:00PM (#32282482)

    Only a distraction if you let it be. Returning to school this year, I use my notebook to take notes in all my classes except econ, because graphing is not much fun in TextEdit.The notebook is pretty valuable, although I suspect it would be of less use in a science/maths lecture. Easy text formatting for highlighting different pieces of information within the structure of the notes, useful for looking up relevant information, and of course I can type faster than I can write, so while putting down the important bits of what the professor is saying, I can also easily inject my own thoughts/comments on the subject as they come to me.

    Do lots of kids use facebook and shit during class, of course they do, they're on mommy and daddy's dime, why wouldn't they fuck around? Not all do though. I'm sure there's correlation between grades and facebook use in class, and once could certainly theorise causation....

  • Re:Thank you, Apple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:35PM (#32282988)
    Look at it this way:

    259932 MDNS packets

    ...over 45 minutes...

    ...and 21 sources...

    Thats 5776 packets per minute, 275 packets per minute per machine.. or an average of 4.6 packets per second per machine, of just MDNS traffic.

    Now, this shit does what, exactly? Why exactly does it need to spam the network every 220ms?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:36PM (#32283012)

    It's only a distraction to students who don't take a particular class seriously. I have horrible handwriting, but just the act of notetaking, be it writing or typing, is one of my key learning tools. I don't even have to refer to my notes necessarily, but my visual/kinetic learning style makes me able to learn faster that way. My problem is that often my brain works about 100x faster than my hand with a pen in it does. I can type and make up for that. I've noticed that yes, in the lower level freshman classes with 400+ students, laptops are often just used as a distraction, the further up you go, the smaller the classes, and the more dedicated to learning people become. Especially when they realize, like I did, that every time I fucked off in a class or skipped, I was basically wasting $50.

  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @02:43PM (#32283098)

    My most annoying test was writing a grammar and recursive descent parser for a set of complex regular expressions on paper.

    That professor was simultaneously the best and worst teacher I have ever had. He was a total hard ass, but if you managed to pass his classes, you really ended up learning.

  • Re:Thank you, Apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BZ ( 40346 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:23PM (#32288494)

    21 sources, right? Sending broadcast packets on a WiFi network? But WiFi has no concept of broadcast packets; these are simulated by the access point transmitting the packet to each wireless client individually.

    The question is what tcpdump (which was used to create the logs) would show here. Would it show one broadcast packet? Or 22 separate packets (1 from source to AP, and 21 from AP to destinations)? I think last time I tried (when mDNS traffic from a few hundred laptops all in one room was totally swamping the one access point) it was the latter... but I could be misremembering.

    If the latter, then looks like the actual send rate for any given machine is about 1 packet every 6 seconds. But the quadratic growth in number of actual packets in the air due to lack of real broadcast packets makes things suck.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye