Good or Evil? The WiFi Sniffer

We live in a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on wireless devices. We have set up wireless networks at home so that we can connect multiple computers and laptops to our home network. We also have wireless printers, wireless TVs, wireless phones.

Hotels and airports offer access to WiFi networks for business and leisure travelers, and WiFi networks are also available to people who want to work or study from a park bench, a coffee house, or a shopping center. Mobile WiFi antennas give truck drivers, RV vacationers, and other mobile individuals continual access to the Internet, so they don't need to keep their laptops or PDAs at home, and can't offer any excuses to their employers or relatives for not being within easy reach.

As though such devices weren't enough, WiFi enthusiasts can now own a WiFi sniffer, which is a wireless tool that detects the presence of other wireless devices, calculates the strength of their signals, and provides a report to the owner of a this type of device.

Who Would Use a WiFi Sniffer?

A WiFi sniffer would be a great tool for campers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Should you ever become lost while hiking or traveling in remote areas, by locating the presence of other wireless devices, a WiFi sniffer could help you locate the owner of those other wireless devices, thus enabling you to call for help, or find your location back to your camp or destination.

Similarly, if you were to lose your own wireless device, such as your laptop or PDA, your WiFi sniffer could let help you locate it; or if you are in dire need of another wireless device, your WiFi sniffer would provide you with a report of other such devices that you could borrow from another individual.

These are all good uses for a WiFi sniffer, but such a tool could also be used for more nefarious purposes. For example, a hacker intent on sabotaging or misdirecting the users of any WiFi network could use his or her WiFi sniffer to detect the presence of wireless devices, set up a fictitious WiFi network, or hack into the existing network, and steal personal information from the users of the other wireless devices.

Similarly, the owner of a cyber café intent on stealing customers from a competing café could use his or her WiFi sniffer to study the network traffic of his or her competitor, and then choose to lower the price of accessing his or her own WiFi network as to lure the customers away from the competition. Or, the managers of a shopping mall could use their own WiFi sniffer to determine the amount of people who connect to their own WiFi network, and then raise the prices of accessing such network to derive more profit from their customers.

Just as with every other device and idea that humankind has ever devised, a WiFi sniffer can be used for good or for evil, and it all comes down to the purpose for which an individual uses such device.