When there weren't that many WiFi networks around cheap geeks built a range of special antennas and techniques to leech onto other peoples' networks.
Now the problem is finding a densely populated area where there aren't so many password-protected, data-encrypted WiFi networks broadcasting that it's hard to find the one you can log in to through the interference.
If you really, really like war driving, or maybe getting into range of a particular WiFi network you can't reach from the street, follow the example of Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins, who built a radio-controlled drone designed to circle within range of a target WiFi network long enough to listen in on a cell-phone conversation, extract a password or crack the encryption.
The two built the 14-pound, six-foot-wide WASP (Wirelesss Aerial Surveillance Platform) two years ago by adapting an Army target drone to run on batteries, carry an HD camera and tiny Linux computer packed with hacking tools like the BackTrack toolset and a dictionary with 340 million words to use as fodder for password-cracking efforts.
The plane was a favorite at last year's Black Hat and Defcon conference last year. Next week Tassey and Perkins are bringing it back, this time with the ability to spoof a GSM cell tower to intercept conversations and laptop connections using AT&T or T-Mobile cell networks.
Someone else presented the GSM trick at last year's conference. None of the other cracking tools are original to Tassey or Perkins, either.
Their contribution is the plane and the package, which, they say, could penetrate even heavily secured areas like Area 51 in New Mexico to spy with both its camera and its network-cracking tools.
In keeping with the caring-and-sharing attitude of the leading hacker conference, the two inventors have maintained detailed instructions, background on the technology involved and updated graphics for those who want to build their own aerial surveillance fleets.
The ubiquity of Internet connections means hackers almost never have to travel far to find the walls they have to crack through to get into the servers they want.
WASP was built for the opposite problem – hacking a specific location or person by going where they are and listening to what they're saying, rather than trying to penetrate every network to which they might connect before they do it.
Plus, unlike most of the rest of the hacks presented at Black Hat – most of which have to be typed into a green screen to see what's cool about what they do – you can tell from a distance that WASP is cool.
Then it can fly over to hear you say so.