The Myth Of The Evil Cantenna Spreads To Other Newspapers

from the make-it-stop,-please... dept

Well it only took a few days for the next “accessing open WiFi is evil” news article to show up, this time in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It’s the typical fear mongering piece that gets a bunch of the facts wrong. However, what’s extra amusing about this piece is it quotes someone who seems to have picked up on the whole illegal cantenna meme without actually understanding it. The guy in question, apparently a security consultant of some kind (who also appears to call the reporter, “Dude” in the newspaper interview, which is a bit… odd), points out how crazy wardriving is by saying: “A Pringles can and antenna can extend a WiFi signal. It’s ridiculous.” Well, first, the Pringles can/Cantenna trick isn’t for wardriving or boosting the receiving capability of your WiFi card, but for extending your own access point signal directionally. Also, why exactly is it ridiculous? A directional antenna to extend your own WiFi signal is a very practical way to help get WiFi to areas that you couldn’t reach before. Yet, in the hands of this security consultant and reporter, the situation is suddenly “ridiculous” and apparently a huge threat. According to another security researcher it’s the equivalent of “handing your keys over to a carjacker.” Um. No, it’s not. Handing over your keys to a carjacker means you lose your car. If someone uses your WiFi for a bit, you probably haven’t lost anything. And just what is that evil wardriver doing with your connection? It’s not just surfing the web and checking their email. Nope. They’re “running a credit card scam [and] maintaining an Internet pornography ring.” Honestly, it would be quite impressive if someone figured out how to “maintain an Internet pornography ring” while sitting outside someone’s house using their open WiFi. Teaching people when and how to secure their WiFi is a reasonable goal. Instead, all we seem to get are fear mongering, misleading articles. Update: It’s been pointed out that there are some cases where it is possible to use a Cantenna to extend the range on a WiFi card searching for an access point, though very few cards have the connector necessary to do so.

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Comments on “The Myth Of The Evil Cantenna Spreads To Other Newspapers”

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dorpus says:

Candent canasta

But what do you expect from the flat Midwest, people are chronically bored as hell here.

At least the media in this country isn’t promoting the urban legend of children being abducted for organ transplants. Throughout the world, there are persistent rumors that CIA agents/Japanese sushi chefs are driving black ambulances and abducting poor children to harvest their organs.

I just had an argument with a woman on another forum who seriously believed this shit. I pointed out that organ transplants are hard to match, and take considerable equipment and expertise available only at major medical centers. It’s a lot easier to do it legitimately.

Rob Miles says:

Maybe not a porn webring

but someone using an open wireless network can do a number of illegal things that the owner of the wireless network would be held responsible for. They can send a massive amount of spam, for instance, or post and retrieve child pornography through news groups without fear of having their IP address backtracked. They can also use the connection to try to hack into other networks.
I had a client recently who was being threatened by their ISP that they would be shutdown if the “illegal activity” from within their network didn’t stop. They had stupidly told a soon-to-be ex employee that he would be fired in a week, so he had enough time to reconfigure their router (which they never secured properly to begin with) so that he had open access. He used that connection to download music, attempt to hack into other sites, etc. I think he was trying to get the client in trouble, considering how much he was trying to do, but he was just a punk-ass script kiddie.
A number of our clients are shops that want to offer free wireless access to their customers (coffe shops, delis, etc.) We help them set it up, but we make sure they are aware of what *could* happen, because we don’t want them coming back to us whining about how they didn’t know what could happen. We tell them it’s better to give customers access as they make a purchase instead of leaving it wide open, but they think that’s too much trouble.
Rob Miles

There are 10 types of people in the world;
those who understand binary and those who don’t.

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