Hacker Tools Can Benefit IT

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.