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Folks Locking Down Wifi


Check out this chart from which plots out the portions of wifi networks from a lot (143 million hotspots and counting) of crowdsourced data. It shows various degrees of encryption, or lack thereof, over time.

The data is aggregated from people like me around the world who wardrive and share the data we find due to some unnamed mental disorder, some OCD subtype perhaps. Or maybe we’re pretending to be Google Street View cars.

Too much effort to pull up the chart? Here’s the gist:

  • In 2001, roughly 66% of all wifi networks were wide open with no encryption, 33% had some for of encryption, and of that 33%, all of them were WEP which is easy to crack.
  • In mid-2004, the uptick of encryption began, and WPA and WPA2 emerged a tad.
  • In October 2006, unencrypted wifi hotspots were finally outnumbered by encrypted hotspots.
  • February 2012: WPA2-encrypted wifi hotspots finally outnumbered unencrypted hotspots.
  • July of 2012, WPA2 edged out WEP hotspots
  • Currently, WPA2 leads the pack at >75% and unencrypted down to 13%. Give or take.

I don’t know by how much, but I’d wager at least a good couple percent of those unencrypted hotspots are deliberately-unencrypted captive gateways, like at hotels and airports and Starbucks, which is why it would be nice if allowed users of their app to probe unencrypted networks to try to ping Google to see if the connections are wide open. Or maybe that would cross the line of privacy, or battery, I don’t know.

I’d also speculate that most of the trend toward encryption has nothing to do with educating the public, rather manufacturers shipping routers with encryption enabled by default.

I never said this would be an entertaining read. I was going for substance..

Doug Simmons