Monitoring a wireless network has its own set of technological challenges. In this video, you’ll learn about wireless survey tools, capturing wireless packets, and the analysis of wireless data.
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A wireless network can be a challenge to monitor because there’s nothing physical to actually connect to. But because it is wireless, and there’s so many things that can go wrong on a wireless network, it becomes even more important to get an understanding of exactly how our networks are performing, even in a wireless environment.
We can use a number of wireless survey tools to help us. These wireless survey tools can tell us things like the signal coverage. And if the wireless survey tool is one that’s mobile, you can go to different parts of the organization to see what the differences might be in the signal.
Another important consideration on wireless networks is potential interference. You want to be sure there’s nothing that’s going to damage the signal going through the air. And things like microwave ovens or other wireless devices can cause interference to the other wireless devices on your network.
There’s a number of built-in tools in the operating system you’re using. Windows, Mac, and Linux all have some built-in wireless tools that can help you do troubleshooting. And even if it isn’t something that’s built into the operating system, you can download a large number of third-party tools that can provide you with extensive details on how the wireless network is performing.
Ultimately, if you really want to get some insight into a wireless network, you may want to use something like a spectrum analyzer. That will show you exactly what’s happening against all of those different frequency ranges for all of your wireless networks.
One security concern with wireless networks is that all of the data is in the air, so anybody with an antenna should be able to retrieve any of the information that’s being sent from one side to the other. If you’re able to capture packets, you can generally gather a lot of details about what’s going on. And we rely a lot on encryption, but very often, we’re in a hotel or we’re at a convention, and we’re using a very public and in the clear and non-encrypted communication.
If you’re looking to capture wireless information, you may want to check and make sure that the wireless adapter you’re using will be compatible with the packet capture software that you’re using. Sometimes, there are very specific wireless chipsets that are required. So it’s best to test that prior to doing any type of troubleshooting.
To capture packets on a wireless network, you need a good antenna. And you need to be somewhere that you can hear as much of the network communication as possible. Because this is wireless, everything tends to be very geography-based, and your antenna needs to be able to pick up as much of that information as possible.
Another important consideration is that your packet gathering device needs to be as quiet as possible. If it was to transmit information over the wireless frequencies, it would effectively be overloading its receiver. So to be able to hear everything, you have to remain quiet while you’re doing the packet capture.
Some wireless drivers will work properly with some wireless adapters, but others will not work properly for doing any type of packet gathering. You may need a specialized device that does nothing but gather packets from the network. Or, you may be able to find the right combination of software and chipset so that everything works seamlessly.
Once you connect to the wireless network, you may see ethernet packets, but you may not see the wireless protocols. And in that particular case, you may be using the wrong chipsets. You can try different chipsets with different adapters to find the one that works best with your software. The easiest thing to do is to try it yourself. Download the latest version of Wireshark from wireshark.org, and try it with your wireless adapter. You may be surprised at just how much information you’re able to see.