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Germany

Wreaking Computer Havoc with a Packet of Pringles

"War driving" brings the elite world of hacking down to the amateur computer user. With relatively little technology, anyone can hack into modern wireless networks, sending security experts into a fury.

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Hacking on the go

Sometimes, all it takes to wreak havoc on somebody’s computer network is an empty can of Pringles.

The long, cylindrical crisp package combined with various other bits of technology makes an ideal temporary antenna for hackers looking to drop in on security-free wireless networks.

"With wireless networks you just set yourself up in the street and then move on in half an hour- disappearing without a trace," Lisa T., of the Chaos Computer Club Berlin told Deutsche Welle.

It’s the latest trend in computer hacking. Called war driving, this trend is driving computer network security experts crazy.

Hacking for the amateur

The reasons lie in its simplicity. With a laptop, a wireless receiver, some software downloaded from the Internet and a real or makeshift antennae, the amateur hacker is ready to go.

After the software is installed the hacker can cruise around on the streets, watching as the laptop picks up the signals of wireless networks. Within a short trip, Lisa T. was able to find 12 networks.

"Of those, eight were unencrypted and unhidden," she said. "Anyone could have simply logged into them."

As wireless hardware, like Apple’s AirPort, gets cheaper, more firms and home computer users have begun opting for it in an effort to rid themselves of a jumble of cables. But only about 30 percent of the wireless networks in Germany are encrypted, making them easy prey for the computer-saavy - sometimes with dangerous results.

"There's evidence that there are wireless networks in clinics where the doctor goes to the patient's bed, makes a diagnosis and enters information about the treatment into the wireless network over the laptop," said Lisa T. "If the wrong data gets in there, you don't want to imagine what could happen."

Those against the practice are responding by war driving themselves. By driving the streets and hacking into unprotected networks, they hope to raise awareness to the problem and prevent the latest trend from getting out of control.

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