U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Wireless Crime, Wireless Criminals: Investigating 802.11 Networks and the People Who Abuse Them

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 36 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2009 Pages: 10,12,15
Christa Miller
Date Published
July 2009
5 pages
This article cites criminal abuses of wireless computer networks, suggests how such crimes should be investigated by police, and how users of wireless networks can improve their security.
Created to improve mobility for business users, wireless network technology has also appealed to home-computer users who want to create "peer to peer" networks that link computers, gaming, and other entertainment devices. The expanded use of wireless technology has been facilitated by a decline in the cost of routers and access points, network interface cards, and computers themselves. Speed has also improved. Improvements will continue with the approval of a new standard, 802.11n, later in 2009. In addition to experiencing fewer dead spots, consumers of wireless technology will be able to download and save video from their computer to wireless-enabled devices such as televisions. These improvements will also benefit criminals and present greater challenges to law enforcement in the investigation of crimes committed through wireless networks. Wireless networking power makes it easier for criminals to create, download, and share materials, such as pornography. It will also enable them to steal networking from their neighbors from much farther away. Given this new capacity and means for committing computer-related crime, investigators must know what to look for in terms of evidence, how to look for it, and what to do with it once it is found. A key part of investigating the wireless crime scene is router interrogation. This involves determining how many IP addresses were leased in a wireless network. Leases indicate how many devices might be found on a network. This article provides guidelines for investigating routers in order to obtain useful information for identifying a suspect involved in computer-related crime. Suggestions are also offered for how users of wireless systems can make them more secure against crime and abuse.