Three men were indicted on federal charges of operating an extraordinary series of “wardriving” operations that targeted at least 53 Seattle businesses, reports the Los Angeles Times. The losses are still being tallied but are expected to reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. Federal authorities have been focusing on increasingly rampant fraud and identity thefts perpetrated by high-tech criminals, including a 2008 wardriving case in Boston which hackers lifted more than 45 million credit and debit card numbers from national retail outlets. The Seattle case was stunning in its brashness and complexity.
The newly indicted men — called wardrivers because they allegedly drove the streets in a vehicle equipped with large antennas and high-tech laptops looking for available WiFi networks — are accused of combining garden-variety burglaries with highly complex cyber-infiltrations, often involving multiple layers of hijacking that disguised not only the identities of the hackers, but where they were working. For weeks, police were questioning innocent home computer owners, and companies were anxiously suspecting their own employees. “Not only were the locations being physically burglarized, but literally electronically burglarized,” assistant Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel said. Authorities demonstrated how antennas — one fashioned from an empty can of Pringles potato chips — were often paired with GPS devices and installed in cars that drove slowly down streets until they found an available WiFi signal. The accused perpetrators then mapped the location for later, or parked, penetrated the network and used it as a springboard to probe into other computer systems.