War, Peace, or Stalemate: Wargames, Wardialing, Wardriving, and the Emerging Market for Hacker Ethics

57 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2004


A wardriver gets in her car and drives around a given area. Using her laptop, freely available software, a standard Wi-Fi card, and a GPS device, she logs the status and location of wireless networks. The computer generates a file and records networks that are open and networks that are closed. Once the data is collected, the wardriver may denote an open network by using chalk to mark a sign on a building, called "warchalking," or she may record the location on a digital map and publish it on the Internet. This article will explain the roots of the term "wardriving," and the cultural phenomenon of the 1983 Hollywood movie WarGames that gave birth to the concept more than 20 years ago. Moreover, this article will show that the press has often confused wardriving with computer crimes involving trespass and illegal access. There are inconspicuous ethical shades to wardriving that are poorly understood, and to date, no academic literature has analyzed the legality of the activity. This article will argue that the act of wardriving itself is quite innocuous, legal, and can even be quite beneficial to society. It will also highlight the need for wardrivers - and for anyone accessing open networks - to help establish and adhere to strict ethical guidelines. Such guidelines are available in various proposal-stage forms, and this article will review these ethics within the context of a larger movement among hackers to develop a coherent ethical code.

Keywords: Wardriving, war driving, wardialing, phreaking, wargames, war games, hacker, wifi, wi-fi, warchalking, wireless hacking, wireless manifesto, kevin mitnick

JEL Classification: K49, K10, K19, K20, I64, l89, O00, O34

Suggested Citation

Ryan, Patrick, War, Peace, or Stalemate: Wargames, Wardialing, Wardriving, and the Emerging Market for Hacker Ethics. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=585867

Patrick Ryan (Contact Author)

Berkeley Law ( email )

United States
303-669-5710 (Phone)

Stanford University ( email )

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