How to hack Wi-Fi for better security

Free (or almost free) Wi-Fi penetration testing tools can help you spot potential Wi-Fi security vulnerabilities and figure out ways to protect against them.

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One way to bolster your understanding of Wi-Fi security is to do some hacking yourself. That doesn’t mean you should infiltrate a company’s network or snoop on a neighbor’s setup. Rather, ethical hacking and legitimate Wi-Fi penetration testing – done in cooperation with the network owner – can help you learn more about the strengths and limitations of wireless security. Understanding potential Wi-Fi vulnerabilities can help you to better protect the networks you manage and ensure safer connections when you access other wireless networks.

Start with a Wi-Fi stumbler

General purpose Wi-Fi stumblers are the simplest tools to add to your pen testing kit. Though typically passive tools, they serve an important purpose. They allow you to see nearby access points (AP) and their details, such as signal level, security/encryption type, and media access control (MAC) address.

Using a stumbler, you might find networks using weak security protocols, such as WEP or the original version of WPA. Or, walking through a property with a stumbler might reveal rogue APs set up by employees or others that could be opening your network to attack. Even if there are APs set with hidden or non-broadcasted service set identifiers (SSID), some stumblers can quickly reveal them.

One example of a stumbler is Vistumbler, an open source Windows application that displays basic AP details, including the exact authentication and encryption methods, and can reveal the SSID and signal level. It also displays graphs of signal levels and channel usage. It's highly customizable and offers flexible configuration options. Vistumbler supports AP names to help distinguish them, which also helps to detect rogue access points. It supports GPS logging and live tracking within the application using Google Earth.

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