Last weekend was typical. I was preparing for a couple of seminars for this week on some pretty intense topics. The wireless security session I delivered today was attended by some influential IT Pros from around the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area. I also had the pleasure of having a number of people from the United States Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
There’s more to this story…
My preparations for these types of session usually involve research, printing, unpacking or uncompressing archived content, tests, etc. It’s a long process and eats time. Fortunately, uncompressing a huge virtual machine leaves time to multi task.
So I was surfing some of my favorite internal distribution lists. Someone posted a link to a blog post from gapingvoid.com. There was an excerpt from the blog and it’s obvious from what I’m reading that someone is pretty pissed off at Microsoft. I didn’t recall at the time anything about gapingvoid.com, but I did notice the cartoon style. I had seen those somewhere.
So I followed the link to Hugh’s blog and dug around a bit. It was already March 5th so I noticed there was a newer and more pointed post. Hugh had posted a challenge, so I figured I’d respond and see what happens. He didn’t really notice my first comment, or he probably ignored it because it was the typical Nick Burns the Computer Guy style post. Someone inside my company mentioned it may not be apparent I was offering to help to I blasted off a quick email directly to the gapingvoid.com email address.
Hugh called me back in five minutes. We talked briefly and he wanted me to use Skype to call him back. So I downloaded the software, grabbed a headset and five minutes later I was talking to Hugh Macleod in London from my palacial Texas ranch. You’re allowed to say that if you have an acre and can at least hear a cow or horse nearby. One of the reasons I wanted to help was because I liked the picture in the post at http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_Type/archives/002369.html although the Red Axe picture probably expressed his frustration better.
We messed around for a bit and compared the drivers and software he was using to the way I am setup. It so happens that two of my laptops use the same Intel wireless chipsets as his tablet pc. That was pretty much a waste of time because we didn’t spot anything apparent. I then started to ask some of the key questions that helped determine at least one fix. We got one of his components, a D-Link wireless bridge to reset and start providing a wireless network signal. Hugh was happy. I didn’t really know all of this until later because you see, there’s a small time difference between London and Dallas. Hugh needed to crash and get some sleep, and I needed to cook for my family. So I typed up some instructions and shot them of via email. I checked my smart phone the next morning at 6am to see if there was a black cloud or nuclear mushroom cloud cartoon waiting for me… Fortunately my instructions worked and he was a happy camper.
I got another email Thursday and apparently his wireless is down, again. There are a number of possibilities left. He could be cooking some popcorn in a microwave oven and cooking his signal at the same time. The 2.4gHz spectrum is crowded with interference and his access point uses that spectrum.
It could be that because we reset the wireless bridge to default settings, the name the bridge is broadcasting is also used by another wireless access point in the area. This can wreak havoc because it is assumed that the access points are on the same network.
It could be a number of other possibilities like:
- Is there a radio on/off switch for wireless on the machine? Is it on? Is a keyboard combination causing the wireless card to turn off?
- Is the adapter enabled? I know it is supposed to be.
- Is there any network interference? 2.4Ghz phone? Microwave?
- Is the wireless adaptor properly waking up after a suspend or hibernation of the tablet? This could be tested by only shutting the machine down when not in use. I would not use suspend or hibernate for several days to rule that out.
We’re going to change the SSID (network name) as soon as I can get in touch with him Friday or Saturday. Any suggestions? How about darkcloud?
I started this story talking about wireless security, my session on Thursday with the feds in the room, and the email's I got. Sorry, I could tell you about the session, but I’d have to shoot you. I’m teasing of course. You can see the session I delivered in April and I promise to add a bunch of stuff I learned from the federal agents.