Hacker Tools Can Benefit IT

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2002-08-26 Print this article Print

NetStumbler tracks information about wireless access points.

At a recent Las Vegas hacker confab, Defcon, attendees were invited to try their luck with a wireless 802.11b network. The results were intriguing or scary, depending on your perspective. One of Air Defenses WLAN security appliances detected 807 attacks within 2 hours.

That sounds like a lot. More than half of those attacks, however, were just probes, using a free tool called NetStumbler, while many of the remaining attempts involved flooding the airwaves, à la denial of service, and MAC address spoofing.

Yes, there are security issues with WLANs, but if youre responsible for setting up and protecting these networks, take a page from the intruders: The tools they use can help you, too.

NetStumbler identifies and tracks information about any wireless access point it can see, including a MAC address, WEP status and a channel. Its graphical interface will track those over time, giving you an analysis of network capability.

Sure, NetStumbler is great for detecting and penetrating naked networks. And because it creates a network log, it can deliver illuminating results. But NetStumbler offers great benefits for corporate IT too. It can easily help you locate dead spots in your wireless network, as well as help you track nagging sources of intermittent noise. Itll also help you determine where overlapping channels ratchet down performance and show you how far your network extends beyond your office walls.

Other hacker tools, such as AirSnort, which decrypts WEP encryption over time, can be used in similar ways to aid your network and improve performance.

Wireless networking is somewhat of a black art, so why not use black-hat tools to stack the deck in your favor.

What other hacker tools can IT use? Jim Louderback has returned to Ziff Davis Media as editor in chief of Ziff Davis Internet, and you can send your answer to jim_louderback@ziffdavis.com.

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including ExtremeTech.com, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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