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Archive for October 2009

Heeeeere’s MiFi

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If I seem a little giddy this week, it’s because I finally got a Novatel MiFi 2200 for my Verizon Mobile Broadband service. MiFi uses the Verizon CDMA Revision A data network to create a WiFi hotspot that you can take anywhere. I haven’t taken the time to give it a full analysis, but in my initial usage I found it quite impressive.

MiFi has been available for several months now, so I don’t want to spend too much time on the basics. It’s a rectangular device slightly larger than a credit card (and about half a centimeter deep) that acts as a WiFi hotspot connecting you to Verizon’s 3G data network.

I got the MiFi for my girlfriend because she uses my Verizon 3G service when I’m not on the road. She’s not at all tech-savvy, so I figured it’d be an easier way for her to get online than having to run the VZAccess Manager connection software on her laptop in order to dial out with her Novatel v740 ExpressCard.

As it turns out, MiFi is so great that I think it’s impossible to get people to understand it using traditional marketing. It kind of makes me think of the T-Mobile HotSpot@Home service in that way. On the service, both MiFi and HotSpot@Home are amazing. MiFi allows you to just push a button and have WiFi anywhere there is a Verizon signal. HotSpot@Home allows you to make unlimited calls anywhere in the world that you can grab a WiFi signal for ten bucks a month. When you say to sentences to a tech guy like me they salivate. When you say those sentences to a layman they ask you when’s the next showing of Zombieland.

So far I’ve only gotten to enjoy the beauty of MiFi briefly (one thing about non-techies, I find, is that if you give them an awesome gadget and they actually understand it, you’ll be lucky to see it before the solstice), so I haven’t had a chance to analyze exactly how it works using a sniffer. I did go into it’s configuration interface, however, so I can report on that.

The MiFi configuration interface offers a few typical WiFi options, but it definitely values simplicity over versatility. By default there are three network profiles setup; one unencrypted, one with WPA Personal w/TKIP and one for guest access. They do offer options for WEP and WPA Personal w/AES, but no WPS. When it comes to performance options they do offer the ability to choose your channel (2.4 GHz only), but there are no RTS Threshold, DTIM Interval, Fragmentation Threshold of intra-BSS blocking settings. I guess I should’ve expected as much, but it was a little disappointing.

MiFi does offer some network security settings. There are port forwarding settings that allow you to run a limited slate of services through MiFi. Also, if you swap your Mobile Broadband service to a different device the MiFi can still act as a LAN-only AP for local services like iTunes sharing or wireless gaming.

I’m going to run the sniffer while using the MiFi soon, so I’ll post more about how it’s working over the weekend. In the meantime, I’d really recommend it strongly for anyone who is currently a Verizon 3G customer or is planning to be one.


Written by sniffwifi

October 16, 2009 at 6:37 am

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OmniPeek for the Masses?

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When I think of WildPackets OmniPeek, I think of a WiFi sniffer made for highly specialized work. Lately, however, I’ve found that people who are new to sniffing often seem to like it more than higher profile sniffers like Wireshark and AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer.

On the surface, AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer and Wireshark each have a distinct edge over WildPackets OmniPeek in attracting novice users. AirMagnet has a very nice interface and Wireshark has a very nice price (free). That’s why I’m sometimes hesitant to tout OmniPeek to newbies. I feel like I’m telling them about something that is probably out of their price range, and then even if they did buy it they’d have to spend a few weeks learning how to really use it.

I got a new perspective on things when I was working at a large industrial company last week. They have a policy banning rogue APs and ad-hoc networks and I had a small test bed set up for my work. On the fourth day that I was there (and you’d have to ask them why it took 4 days for the admins to finally notice that I had WiFi setup) I was having a delicious grilled chicken sandwich at my desk when one of their admins came in with Fluke OptiView asking if we had any ad-hoc WiFi running. I told him that we might and then I started running WildPackets OmniPeek. Sure enough, one of the guys I was working with had an ad-hoc network setup. I showed the admin the ad-hoc network and then we used the Locate function in OmniPeek to track it down.

The admin’s Fluke OptiView could have done the locating just fine, so the really interesting part came when the folks I was working with returned from their lunch break. I told them the story of the admin coming in looking for ad-hoc networks and they became curious about OmniPeek. To this point I had only been using Wireshark and AirMagnet with them; again, figuring that OmniPeek wasn’t their speed. When I showed them OmniPeek, they immediately wanted more. Even though these guys had little use for viewing packet traces or filtering by 802.11 protocol, they loved the fact that OmniPeek at least gave them the option to do those things in ways that were easier and more intuitive than the applications we had been using.

I still maintain my position that Wireshark (strictly because it’s free) is best for recreational sniffing and that AirMagnet is easiest for basic professional sniffing in most settings. Still, this experience made me re-think things a little bit. Maybe there are more people than I thought who could use a reasonably priced (about $1,400 for OmniPeek Basic and an 802.11n dual-band capture adapter) WiFi sniffer that let’s you get as deep into packet analysis as you want to go.

Written by sniffwifi

October 7, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized