• Tracking Wifi Enabled Vehicles

  • Tracking your wifi enabled Vehicle might not have been something you considered when you purchased that new car that came with a wifi hotspot. More and more cars are coming with this feature and I started to look closer at the possibilities of tracking a vehicle’s movements based on the SSID and MAC address.

    A media access control address (MAC address) is a unique identifier assigned to a network interface controller (NIC) for use as a network address in communications within a network segment. This use is common in most IEEE 802 networking technologies, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

    The abbreviation SSID stands for Service Set Identifier. This is the unique name that identifies a wireless network. It is in the packet header when a data packet is transmitted. The devices on the Wi-Fi network use this identifier for communications via the network.

    The SSID in your vehicle might be the default SSID from the factory or you might have changed to one you can more easily identify like “SamsTahoe”. The SSID is most likely being broadcast openly for everyone to see. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

    War Driving for SSIDs and Geolocation

    WarDriving for SSIDs and GeoLocation.

    As part of this research I set up a Raspberry Pi 3 and a GPS Fob connected to a 10.5 inch external monitor with a wireless keyboard and touchpad. The Raspberry Pi was running Kali Linux along with gpsd and Kismet.

    Kismet, gpsd, and the GPS fob allowed me to save the broadcasting SSIDs, MAC addresses, and geolocation to a SQLite database as a Kismet log.

    All these are freely broadcasted, no hacking or exploitation was involved. It’s similar to changing the channel on the TV to see what signals you might get. No connections were made to any wireless networks.

    After a sample was collected I shut Kismet down and then exported the Kismet log to a KML file and uploaded that to Google maps where the geolocation data and SSIDs were overlaid over the map.

    Wifi Enabled Vehicles and SSIDs

    Vehicle SSIDs were easily spotted in the data since they included the make or model of the vehicle. The geolocation data was also included so I can approximate the location of the vehicle was well.

    That scenario highlights one method of tracking a vehicle, but it requires a setup similar to what I used in this research project. You could leave one in a static location and identify all the wi-fi enabled vehicles that pass by in wifi range. You could also deploy multiple devices like this around a few city blocks and capture the movement of a particular vehicle, but there’s actually a broader approach.

    Crowdsourcing SSIDs

    Wigle.Net is an excellent source of crowd sourced SSIDs and geolocation data. A description from their site is here.

    What you can do at Wigle.Net is enter the SSID or MAC address and it will map the location that particular device was seen.

    Using “SamsTahoe” from my research data I was able to determine that “SamsTahoe” had been to ChickFila:

    Wigle.Net SSID and Geolocation

    The data uploaded to Wigle.Net is not in realtime and it can be months or event years old, the point is there that yes, you can be tracked based on the MAC Address and SSID being broadcast from your vehicle.

    Wifi Enabled Vehicle Privacy

    There are some things you can do to prevent connecting you to the vehicle and prevent it from being heavily tracked:

    • Name your SSID to something generic like Cisco, NetGear, or LinkSys. There are thousands of devices with this SSID and you will be lost in the noise.
    • Name your SSID to a different make and model of vehicle.
    • Turn off broadcasting for the SSID.
    • Turn off the hotspot until you need to use it.

    If you have more questions about internet security in vehicles you can contact us here.