Project Warbike

The Truth About Wi-Fi

Watch our video to see how we checked up on Wi-Fi security around London, and learn what we found out.

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What we found

Our geographic mapping of wireless networks and their level of security revealed some interesting trends.

Surprisingly, residential areas had reasonably sufficient default configurations. Although many devices had default network names like “SKY-XYZ123,” they often had the strong WPA2 encryption standard enabled.

We found the highest density of poorly secured networks along streets with a high number of small businesses. However, we found that Wi-Fi security levels were quite similar across all areas of London.

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Fast facts

  • We found nearly 107,000 wireless networks legally. If we’d broken the law we would have found more.
  • We found 11,756 hotspots operated by cafes and hotels. These networks are designed to be open but still pose a security risk. We identified hotspots by network name.
  • 9% of all wireless networks we found were using default network names with no random element, such as "default" or the vendor name. This figure increased to 21% if we also added in networks using the default name with some random element per device, e.g., "Default-165496." These figures excluded default names of obviously identifiable, intentionally open hotspots such as those in hotels and cafes.
  • 8% had no protection at all, not even a password. They were both home and business networks.
  • On any of these networks your data is in open for anyone to see, so think twice and always use a VPN (virtual private network) or SSL (secure sockets layer).
  • 19% were using obsolete WEP (wired equivalent privacy) encryption. These people think they’re safe but they’re not. WEP can be broken in seconds. Now, more secure options are available out of the box. It’s time to upgrade.
  • The rest were protected with WPA (Wi-Fi protected access) or WPA2. Providing you use good passwords and not default settings, these are pretty good.

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