Have you ever noticed how your smartphone sometimes tells you there’s a wireless network available, and asks if you want to connect to it? That’s because, when your smartphone’s wireless capability is turned on, it’s constantly scanning for WiFi, so it picks up on them when you happen to walk, ride, or drive past an available network. In a nutshell, that’s what wardriving is, and there’s even software out there to help people do it.
When wardriving, people may search for WiFi networks by driving around in a moving vehicle, often using a GPS device to record the location of any wireless networks they find. They then upload this data to specific websites that process the information to create digital maps of the networks in the neighborhood. This isn’t necessarily a malicious act, nor is it illegal. In fact, there was some controversy when Google admitted to having gathering WiFi data while taking video footage and geolocation information to build out its Street View application, but the action itself wasn’t ruled to have been an illegal violation of privacy.
The main thing to note is that, if you provide a WiFi network (even your private home network for personal use only), you need to protect it with strong passwords and network encryption. Otherwise, anyone driving your around your neighborhood could hop onto your network and commit all manner of internet atrocities using a connection that’s registered to you. And if their nefarious activities get tracked, law enforcement might come knocking on your door, even though you were innocent of the computer crime.