Wary of Wireless and WiFi

Wary: adjective, warier, wariest. 1. watchful; being on one's guard against danger.

Our students are growing up with cell phones. Most of the graduating class at St. Raymond has their own cell phone. As a society we are doing a better job in school teaching common sense online safety, but most schools universally skip a step: that link from the phone to getting online. There is a wireless link from the phone to the internet. Phones commonly connect to WiFi spots at school and home to get online. This is a radio frequency link. Today Tony Gambacorta, a White Hat hacker (someone who is employed by companies and governments to test digital security), from 1585Security.com walked the students through using a $20 usb device that scans radio frequencies. 

We learned that there are so many devices around us from doorbells to our key fobs that use wireless technology to function. The class wired up transmitters to ring a wireless doorbell from a distance and observed the data a key fob sends to a car. You can see the software interface in the upper left corner of the image below. The more important part of the lesson is getting students to realize that just by having their cell phones powered-on data about that device, what websites it is logged into, and other wireless networks it has connected to in the past (ie. your home network name) is available to anyone with a WiFi scanner. When you combine this with a public map of WiFi networks someone with ill-intent can work out where that person lives. 

The goal today is to get our students (and parents) to think more about the kind of world we live in. A world of ubiquitous data includes data about us. The image in the lower right below is a screen shot of this website. Parents are encouraged to navigate there from a cell phone and see what kind of information is available to any website you or your student visits and follow the free security suggestions. Should we be scared of new technology? No. Wary? Yes.

Upper Left: GQRX Scanning Software that 8th graders used today. Lower Right: See what any website sees when you visit it.

Upper Left: GQRX Scanning Software that 8th graders used today. Lower Right: See what any website sees when you visit it.