War Driving on the iPhone

As per WikiPedia, Wardriving is the act of searching for Wi-Fi wireless networks by a person usually in a moving vehicle, using a laptop or smartphone.

The man who invented wardriving was Peter Shipley back in 1999 or 2000. Though, he was not the first person to ever drive around looking for Wi-Fi networks, however he was the first one to automate the process with wardriving software and GPS.

Though Software for wardriving is freely available on the internet, there are no apps available on the App Store. Wifi-Where and other popular apps were available, however in 2010, Apple dropped the axe on all such apps.

Some apps are available on the Cydia store however that would require the Apple device to be jail-broken.

In this tutorial, we would see on how we can use an Apple provided utility for Wi-Fi scanning. I would not categorize it as a classic war driving app for scanning Wi-Fi, since it lacks GPS coordinates.

AirPort Utility is an app by Apple that usually supports managing your own wireless network. A hidden setting can turn AirPort Utility into a Wi-Fi scanner, which displays information about the accessible networks with their transmission power and the used channels.

Requirements –

  • An Apple iPhone
  • Airport Utility  (You may download Airport Utility for free in the App Store)

Step 1. Install the Apple Airport Utility from the app store.

Step 2. On your iOS device, go to Settings > AirPort Utility to turn on the Wi-Fi scanner

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Step 3. Launch Airport Utility and tap Wi-Fi Scan

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Step 4. By default, Wi-Fi Scanner runs continuously. Use the slider to set a scan duration of up to 60 seconds.

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Step 5. Accessing WiFi Scan Feature

To start the scan, tap Scan. AirPort Utility lists all the SSIDs that it finds. This includes hidden networks, which appear as “Network name unavailable.”

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The AirPort Utility scans all available bands at four-second intervals. Enterprise networks that have multiple access points are grouped by BSSID. The scanner shows information about:

  • SSID
  • BSSID
  • LastRSSI
  • Channel
  • Last Time Found

RSSI is the Received Signal Strength Indicator, a measure of the Wi-Fi signal strength of that transmitter. For an iOS device to start looking at a connection, this needs to be -70 dBm or more, but once made, a connection can be maintained below -75. Values above -40 are very strong, and should give rock-solid connections.

Scan History

To view a trace log of the scan results for an SSID and BSSID, tap the SSID:

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The trace log shows the date and time of the scan, along with the channel and RSSI.

Export Scan History

After the scan completes, you can share the results. Just tap the share icon ( ), then choose one of these options:

  • AirDrop
  • Message
  • Mail
  • Copy

AirPort Utility sends the results as a comma-separated list:

 

SSID, BSS, RSSI, Channel, time

“ACES”, “18:64:72:D3:E9:40”, “-57”, “11”, “12:02:03 PM”

“Cuba”, “F8:1E:DF:F9:56:BC”, “-53”, “149”, “12:02:03 PM”

“ACES”, “18:64:72:D3:E9:50”, “-63”, “149”, “12:02:03 PM”

“Cuba”, “F8:1E:DF:F9:56:BB”, “-69”, “11”, “12:02:03 PM”

“ACES”, “18:64:72:D3:E9:40”, “-67”, “11”, “12:02:07 PM”

The first line is a column header that shows the SSID, BSS, RSSI, Channel, and date fields. To analyse or chart the results, import the list into a spreadsheet or other tool.

 

Leaving the Wi-Fi scanner active is likely to impact on energy usage, so when you have finished using your new mobile Wi-Fi scanner, it’s worth going back into Settings and disabling it again.

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