Wireless everywhere!

I had the opportunity to play with a laptop with wireless networking this weekend. I installed Ubuntu and fired up Kismet to make some sense of the RF energy permeating our home. I had expected to find a handful of our neighbors' networks, but to my surprise there were 46 wireless networks. Not content with this new information, I wondered how far away these networks are.

I decided to hop in the car and drive around our neighborhood, which covers about one quarter of a square mile. In no time the number of networks doubled, then tripled and kept climbing. The total: 270 wireless networks. How many homes are in our neighborhood? Only 386.

So 70% of our neighbors have a wireless network, or ones that's detectable from the street. Or maybe that's only 30% who are smart. What else did I find out? There are five ad-hoc networks, all open access print servers, and I found four cloaked networks. There is no encryption on 13%, WEP enabled on 44%, and something else on 43%. Who makes the access points?

Manufacturer Count Open WEP WPA
Cisco-Linksys 70 14 27 29
Actiontec Electronics 57 3 35 19
Netgear 41 6 4 31
D-Link Corporation 24 3 12 9
Belkin 22 1 3 18
2Wire 18 17 1
Motorola 17 1 14 2
Apple 4 1 3
Buffalo 2 1 1
Murata Manufacturing Co. 2 1 1
Ayecom Technology Co. 1 1
CAMEO COMMUNICATIONS 1 1
GemTek Technology Co. 1 1
Microsoft Corp. 1 1
TRENDnet 1 1
Unknown 8 5 2 1

Security

Belkin and Netgear are clear leaders in abandoning WEP and moving to WPA. Too bad we can't see what portion are WPA2. Cisco-Linksys is a little worse than average with 20% open, and they together with D-Link and Actiontec do have WPA users, but many still use WEP. Motorola and 2Wire need to do more to educate their customers about the weaknesses of WEP. Also, these figures probably are skewed due to wireless routers being configured by the ISPs that installed them.

Channel Usage

  1. ========================- (49)
  2. === (6)
  3. ===== (10)
  4. ==- (5)
  5. (0)
  6. =========================================== (86)
  7. ===- (7)
  8. ==- (5)
  9. =============- (27)
  10. = (2)
  11. ==================================== (72)

Conclusions

There are either 30% who are smart or 30% who don't have wireless networks. Reality is somewhere in between, probably more towards the latter. The better question is, what's the difference? Do you put your wireless router in the basement our crawlspace? If that's not an option, such as in an apartment, do you do anything to shield your Wi-Fi signal?