WI-FOO. The Secrets of Wireless Hacking
by Andrew Vladimirov, Konstantin Gavrilenko, Andrei Mikhailovsky

Addison-Wesley 2004.
ISBN 0-321-20217-1. Eight appendices, glossary, index. 555 pages, $34.99

Reviewed by  Bob Bruen   July 18, 2004 

Now that the real books about wireless security have started to appear, it is time for a real hacker's book for wireless. WI-FOO is comprehensive work with an attitude that pokes fun at "1337 h4x0rs" (roughly translated, naive hackers). In my opinion real security requires real expertise. It is not enough to announce the discovery of yet another buffer overflow somewhere. What is required is a thorough knowledge of principles, protocols, architecture and implementation. The authors appear to meet my requirements.

The existing security books, some of which are excellent, do not cover the hands-on environment, a necessary step if penetration testing is your objective. Such testing could be desired for a number of reasons, such as testing your own wireless environment or some one else's network. A good book will have a variety of approaches. For example, it might include the step-by-step recipes for a particular procedure and good explanations of why each step is necessary. Books like this demand an investment of time and energy to follow and understand, no matter how well written they are.

Planning an attack or test on a network has been a cornerstone of the process, unless you just want to release something to Internet without consideration for what happens. The more you know, the better off you will be. War-driving/walking are only part of the process, and they have some subtle complications of their own. For example, when you return to a target rich environment, how do single out a particular network that you found previously? (GPS is a good start). The detailed planning process in WI-FOO is is nicely done. The steps are there, the tools are there and what to do with what you get is there as well. Lots of extra resource pointers are given, but you get enough in the book to carry out a plan.

When starting to gather up the equipment for your penetration test, you will need to select some hardware. Clearly, you will need a laptop, unless you have built in a machine/power in your vehicle's trunk (yes, people do this) and some sort of wireless card, but which card? WI-FOO covers several common cards, with schematics of one Prism device, to help you decide on what you want. RF and antenna basics are presented, without the Pringles can. One of the nice features of this book is the broad coverage of operating systems, Linux, BSD, Windows, etc. The reader is walked through setting up a card on Linux from kernel compiling through drivers, configurations and usage.

While I tout the value of understanding the underlying principles, I also value the tools which are available. The tools covered in WI-FOO range over encryption cracking, discovery, sniffing and attacking. Where to get them, both free and commercial, what they do and how you can use them are detailed in a very accessible manner.

WI-FOO is a book that you want to own if you care at all about wireless operations, security or penetration testing. It is the one book you should have for wireless.