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United States Wireless Networking Hardware

Wi-Fi Hack Aids Boarding Parties 69

Posted by Zonk
from the guess-where-i'm-iming-from dept.
Kage-Yojimbo writes with a link to the site Strategy Page. There, they're reporting on a military adaptation of civilian wi-fi equipment to use in boarding operations on the high seas. Modifications to normal off-the-shelf gear can result in a range of over 700 meters, allowing information to be passed through on-shore internet connections. "The main reason for all this was to speed up the transmission of passport photos and other personal data back to the ship, so that it could be run through databases to check for terrorists or criminals. This wi-fi hack cut several hours off the time required to check documents. The Expanded Maritime Interception Operations (EIMO) wireless system was developed last year, to provide several kilometers of range to the original wi-fi gear (which has been in use for over three years). Each pair of wi-fi units costs about $1400 to construct, using common parts to add more powerful antennae to standard 802.11g wi-fi equipment."
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Wi-Fi Hack Aids Boarding Parties

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  • $1400? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <instascreed@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:00PM (#19284921) Homepage
    Seems a lot for a Pringles can (http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/weblog/view/wlg/448)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Robber Baron (112304)

      Seems a lot for a Pringles can
      Remember we're talking about an institution that pays $5000 for a screw and $20000 for a toilet seat...$1400 for a pair of Pringles cans is cheap by comparison.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rs79 (71822)
        "and $20000 for a toilet seat"

        It was $10,000 not $20,000. It later came to light this was hoy money for covert operations was being found.
    • Re:$1400? (Score:5, Informative)

      by xSauronx (608805) <xsauronxdamnit.gmail@com> on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:10PM (#19284985)
      Or basic WISP equipment. Tranzeo has 4.9ghz systems that start at $433 per radio, and can do a good 5 miles or so. Each unit can act as a client, a bridge, or an AP (they sell directional units, and units with n-connectors so you can attach a direction or omni antenna) Ive installed their 2.4ghz radios as far as 5 miles from an AP. $1400 bucks for a pair of radios seems a bit much, IMO. Not that the article was heavy on details anyway.
      • by westlake (615356)
        Ive installed their 2.4ghz radios as far as 5 miles from an AP. $1400 bucks for a pair of radios seems a bit much, IMO

        In the marine environment? Salt water? Rough seas? Coastal patrol or naval vessels?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Okay - yes, Tranzeo, yes, in a marine environment, no, not on naval or patrol vessels, but on a commercial fishing vessel. 5 kilometres, ship-to-shore. $150 CAD per radio (2 required), 2.4ghz. Horizontal polarisation, approximate antenna height above sea surface was 5 metres. Sure, we had to manually keep the yagi aligned with the shore station, but that's because I was too cheap to build a gyro system. With a 30-degree spread, the yagi was actually pretty forgiving. Actual throughput around 1.8Mbps. On la
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by djmcmath (99313)
        It's the US Navy. If there's a $5 solution commercially available, we can guarantee that it will cost $500, and be delivered 20% past deadline. We're also very good at signing contracts that won't expire until the technology that we've contracted has been obsolete for 20 years. No worries, finest Navy in the world, right here, boys.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rickb928 (945187)
          As a former resident of Maine, I know the Bath Iron Works fairly well, and have family members that still work there. The Yard has a deserved reputation for delivering boats ahead of schedule and under budget, and better-built than either requested or expected. Even the Harley Burke class (Aegis) which they had to share some design work with Ingalls on, much to their detriment and consternation. It was a matter of pride at the Yard to survive the inevitable updates, changes, and interference by the Navy
      • by SkaOMatic (771887)
        Equipment brands aside- It's not so much the cost of the radio as the cost of the antenna.

        Per FCC regs, a Point-to-Point connection can have an 'unlimited' power output - that is to say, following the outlined methods of reducing the intentional radiation before the antenna - you are only limited by the radio's ability to scale its signal down, the passive gain and quality of your antenna's element, and the attentuation of the connecting hardware between the radio and the antenna (cabling, connectors, etc).
    • this: http://www.netscum.com/~clapp/wireless.html [netscum.com] is being referenced.
    • by ajanp (1083247)
      I just found the receipt for their expenses breakdown: 1. $20 for the pringles can (and lunch for the day). 2. $180 for the router (batteries not included). 3. $1200 to pay off The Pirate Bay to make sure they didn't attack while they were in the open seas.
    • by Divebus (860563)
      Bob Cringely did this years ago to get good Internet service to his house over a 10km Wi-Fi link:
      First article [pbs.org] and followup [pbs.org].
    • from the FCC, since there is a legal limit on EIRP for 802.11. I strongly suspect that any means of increasing range to "several kilometers" would violate that limit.

      Note that this is a mobile application which is limited by the FCC to 1W EIRP (fixed applications get 6db more).

      Of course, this is all related to terrorists and homeland security, so laws don't apply.
      • by tzanger (1575)

        from the FCC, since there is a legal limit on EIRP for 802.11. I strongly suspect that any means of increasing range to "several kilometers" would violate that limit.

        Not entirely true. The FCC also allows you to increase EIRP up to 4W if your antenna gain is at least 6dBi and the system is a fixed, point-to-point setup (Part 15.247). You must also reduce your transmit power 1dB for every 3dB of antenna gain over 6dBi, which means you can technically achieve much higher than 4W EIRP if you've got a ver

        • by SkaOMatic (771887)

          Whether a ship anchored offshore qualifies as "fixed" or not, well I'm not sure.


          A tricky one, for sure. Oftentimes fixed is regarded as Point-to-Point, while mobile Point-to-MultiPoint.

          The 4W EIRP is for PtMP - PtP/Fixed is only limited by the decrease active gain/increase passive gain rule and the fact that there comes a point when you can't reduce the wattage of the radio without attentuating before the antenna element.
      • I doubt the the US Navy operating on the High Seas using a line-of-sight frequencies need worry about FCC Regulations. Mostly reason for the power restrictions is so civians don't interfere with government use of the airways
        • 1) "several kilometers" from a land station is not the "high seas." (The US claims a 12 mile territorial limit)

          2) 802.11 is a bidirectional link. How do you propose that a ship communicate with shore unless the shore station also uses an increased EIRP?

          The military has their own frequencies which they can use for (relatively) unencumbered communications. When they use the ISM bands used by 802.11, they are bound to the same limits as the rest of us (legally).
          • 1) "several kilometers" from a land station is not the "high seas." (The US claims a 12 mile territorial limit)
            It's not several kilometers from land, it's several kilometers between the home ship and the interdicted ship

            Overseen by the Navy's Program Executive Office for C4I, the Expanded Maritime Interception Operations (EIMO) wireless system provides a data link between crews on interdicted vessels and their home ship up to a few nautical miles away. Unlike a simple radio unit, these wireless links can tr

      • This is for boarding ships out at sea you moron, the FCC doesn't have jurisdiction in A. international water or B. outside the U.S.
        Secondly those regulations apply to consumer goods, not military.
    • by guruevi (827432)
      It's for the government/military. You don't believe that a toilet seat for the white house costs $10000 either do you? (oblig. quote from a movie, guess which one)

      Next to that, it costs so much because it has to be 'mil spec' meaning that it has to be handpicked and tested before it can be shipped to the customer. If that wasn't bad enough, the government doesn't pay it's contractors immediately. It can take up to 3 years after the project is done before it is budgetted and you see any $$$ coming your way,
    • TO ALL WHO RESPONDED (Score:4, Informative)

      by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <instascreed@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday May 26, 2007 @06:42PM (#19286119) Homepage
      I was making a smartass remark. Really.

      I'll bet there's a Mil Std somewhere that requires the equipment to be resistant to everything from sea-salt to EMP. This adds cost. Probably for no actual good. However, as one of my commanders once told me "regulations are writen in blood."

      $1400 may sound expensive, but what price on a life?
      • by mikiN (75494)
        $1400 may sound expensive, but what price on a life?

        Arab or American?

        (may I pass over the gawddamn bridge now? I've got a Grail to find...)
      • $1400 may sound expensive, but what price on a life?

        It's not that, it's the cost of the bureaucracy to sell that $1400 radio. I looked at doing some government subcontracting and to build these radios probably required two full-time contracts people just to handle the thousands of pages of regs. required by the contract.

        It's a big-boys' game - they all make money and we pay for it.
  • by VE3OGG (1034632) <<VE3OGG> <at> <rac.ca>> on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:13PM (#19285007)
    Except theirs is modified with a high-powered, ultra-top secret Pringles can...
  • Yarrr (Score:3, Funny)

    by 42Penguins (861511) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:13PM (#19285013)
    Only pirates are allowed to take part in "boarding operations on the high seas".
    The Military can, however, "liberate" vessels.
  • by shmlco (594907) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:21PM (#19285063) Homepage
    Now you've gone and done it. By publicizing the fact that they're using commercial off-the-shelf equipment you've opened the door to someone higher up mandating a "military-grade" system costing 100x as much.
    • by xiux (1035790)
      > ..."military-grade" system costing 100x as much.

      Being in the military, this has a hint of truth, someday ill post a pic of the army's $4000 version of a 1GB pendrive.
    • by kinglink (195330)
      Well that's why it's 1400 dollars instead of 5 bucks for the pringle can 20 for the antenna. Someone already found out.
  • The benefits of using standard 802.11 are things like wide compatibility, and the use of unlicensed frequencies... It sounds like neither is even a slight benefit in this case, as the units have to be modified (somehow) and the cost of licensed frequencies would probably be easily covered.

    Of course, this story wasn't exactly heavy on the details.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:38PM (#19285155) Journal
    The military has much higher requirements for equipment. It wasn't until just recently that 'throw away' equipment became good enough for military use. By that I mean that the cost of replacement / repair became equivalent or parity. A cantenna and a $70 router can be replaced quickly without need for repairs... that is to say that the repair process is called replacement. This was never the case for military grade equipment in the past.

    The advent of surface mount parts caused the cost of manufacture to drastically drop while the cost of repair soared. This doesn't work for armored vehicles, but for electronics it does.

    You will notice other effects of 'modern warfare' also: the humble low-tech RPG has been a fiercely dangerous weapon. Very low-tech roadside bombs are rising in popularity too. While that has little to do with the cantenna and COTS 802.11g router, it does show that high dollar, high tech equipment is not always the best choice. If it works, well.. it works, and if people in the field find something that works, you will have trouble stopping them from using it.

    I'm sure that the Pringles company are more than willing to keep shipping chips to the middle east.
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @04:56PM (#19285289)
      This was never the case for military grade equipment in the past.

      Not so. The military has long found that it is sometimes more efficient to simply discard malfunctioning equipment. Remember, cost is not so much an issue as availability. A radio that's out for repairs is unavailable, and the cost of that unavailability can be higher than the price tag of a brand new unit. Trained service technicians are not always on hand either, particularly under battlefield conditions.

      My father was in the military a long time ago, and the techs he know would often just tag a piece of electronic equipment as "unrepairable" when the only thing wrong was something like a busted knob. That's because new equipment was readily available, tech time was expensive and limited and it just wasn't worth their time to try and fix it. They had more important things to do.
      • by Kotukunui (410332)
        There are stories dating back to World War II when New Zealand aircraft mechanics would trawl the junk piles at American air bases in the Pacific to salvage parts that were judged "unrepairable" by US forces. With a bit of time and effort, the part would be made servicable again and deployed on a NZ aircraft.

        I guess with the relative rate of pay and armed forces budgets, it made economic sense for the Kiwi servicemen to spend time repairing, whereas it did not to the Americans.

        These guys were the original d
  • If there's anything that could jam that connection, it would be a poorly-configured emule client! Or so my roommate says when I hog all the bandwidth. *blush*

    Now yeah, I know some of you are going to say "the network is coming from the coast guard boats, the vessel being boarded won't have access." I would like to remind you that this is a goverment operation so of course they'd be running their WAP wide-open, no security. :)
  • I clicked on the "Strategy Page" link to RTFA (I know, what was I thinking? ). And here's the article in its entirety:

    The U.S. Navy has adapted civilian wi-fi (wireless networks) for use at sea during boarding operations. By modifying off-the-shelf wi-fi gear, the navy increased the range to over 700 meters. The main reason for all this was to speed up the transmission of passport photos and other personal data back to the ship, so that it could be run through databases to check for terrorists or criminals. This wi-fi hack cut several hours off the time required to check documents. The Expanded Maritime Interception Operations (EIMO) wireless system was developed last year, to provide several kilometers of range to the original wi-fi gear (which has been in use for over three years). Each pair of wi-fi units costs about $1400 to construct, using common parts to add more powerful antennae to standard 802.11g wi-fi equipment.

    Which is the same as the summary... what's the point?

    Searching further, here's a link to GCN (Government Computer News) with a little bit more details: linky [gcn.com].

    • by mikiN (75494)
      Yeah, and all the insurgents will need is a dinghy stacked full of explosives, piloted either by home-rigged 'robotics' wired to a Linksys wireless router or a suicide bomber with a laptop running Kismet...
  • I watched a NASA film of an experiment they did on the Great Lakes in conjunction with the US Coast Guard. Over a distance of several miles (line of sight) they still managed to get over 1 Mb/sec with a WiFi connection. It was standard WiFi equipment, though I believe they were using non-standard antennas (NOT pringle cans).
  • Actually, antennas would have been the correct spelling even in Latin, since it is the object of the verb in the summary. So much for pedantry.
    • by instarx (615765)
      wow, well caught. Adding better "antennae" to the equipment would mean adding more than one antenna to each piece of equipment. Adding better "antennas" means adding a single new antenna to each, which presumably is the situation. Since that's now settled I'm never going to think about this again.
      • by dsanfte (443781)
        That may be a possible way of discerning the plurals, but there's no formal definition, be it in a dictionary or anywhere else, saying those plurals work in that way. I'd be very wary about thinking that's what they mean in the future.
  • For that sort of price you can go and get commercially rated devices ready made.

  • While $1400 seems high, it probably covers more than just plain material cost. There is quite a bit cost involved in the paperwork, testing, approval what have you. Dealing with the military isn't like installing a new router for your brother-in-law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Runefox (905204)
      Cousin Timmy: OK, General, you're all set.

      Gen: Thanks, son. Hey, why is it telling me that the connection strength is low?

      Cousin Timmy: That's nothing to worry about. Also, you need to reconnect every ten minutes, because the router's a little weird, and I don't know how to flash the firmware. That's what the tech support forum said I should do.

      Gen: ... What?

      Cousin Timmy: Don't worry about that, there's nothing to the workaround. You just right-click on this icon here, click "repair" and you're done. Every
  • I first read the headline as "Wi-Fi Hack Aids Boring Parties". I was thinking maybe someone hacked someone's wi-fi LAN to redirect every website into a porn site, and the prank made the papers or something. Then I started reading the summary, and it was all about the military raiding ships at sea. And I could only think to myself, "Holy shit, man, I may be a boring nerd, but I don't think I want my parties to be that exciting!"

    Then I re-read the headline. I think I liked my version better. :)
  • Better hope the BBC's Panorama don't hear about this one! http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/2 6/1954220&from=rss [slashdot.org]
  • a bit of history (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Arglebarf (1107929)
    The initial work on this was done under the auspices an "off the shelf technology" program aboard USS Fletcher (DD 992) during work-ups and deployment in 2000, seeking to implement commercially available equipment in the tactical environment. This was a personal pet-project of one Capt. Noble, who went on to work at Defense Aqcuisitions at the Pentegon. The goal of the experiments then were to supplement the information broadcast over Link 11 systems with info from new-fangled digital cameras and personal
  • Hmm..

    Asus WL500G Premiun Wifi router (none of your Linksys tat) - £67 each
    dd-wrt + crank up the power output to 100mW - FOC
    9dbi gain antenna - about £6 each
    12V DC battery pack - £20 each
    10 mins for 'consultant' to flash the routers - £500

    I used a similar setup (with mains adaptors and set to 40mW) to provide a stable link over about 700m from office to office across a public car park. Unfortunately, as an employee I couldn't charge the 'flashing fee'!
  • Before pirates start using them.
  • Why did they not use a Repeater type of setup like Packet Radio or richochet type gear? You could have every boat's radio reciever be a repeater as well creating a instant mesh network as the boats went out. Main ship has the sattelite link, service craft all use the mesh repeating radios and everyone has perfect net connectivity.

    No, they use COTS wifi gear with a amp+preamp and some cubical quad patch antennas and have to worry about direction and path.

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