Hacking wireless networks in Thailand

The first world problem to rule them all, slow wifi

In terms of i-landsproblem (Swedish for first world problems) having slow internet might be a strong contender for the first world problemest of them all.

But having slow internet when you actually have to get work done is tiring. Yesterday I waited 6 hours while uploading a backup using SFTP. Sure in the meantime I created this blog but still.

Coming from a place with awesome internet I sometimes feels that all the beautiful sunsets in the world can’t make up for sucky internet.

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Tonights sunset. Absolute rubbish.

Sometimes you should just accept defeat and watch the sunset but if you plan on staying longer in the same place you should do your best to get the most out of your wireless network.

The thai simcard paradox

I already have an unlocked phone with a thai simcard and a data plan. The problem is that ridiculously gorgeous places have rubbish wifi and 3g.

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Koh Tao. Ridiculously awesome island. Less then mediocre internet speed.

So what is a boy to do?

The easiest thing to do would be to compromise and stay in a slightly boring town with great wifi (Chiang Mai). But if I wanted compromise I should just have stayed in Stockholm with stellar internet and terrible weather.

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Stockholm. Pretty. Great internet. Freezing.

Instead of compromising on my standards for internet speed we could try to compromise some wireless networks.

A brief history of networks

In the good old days we all used cables to connect our computer to our local area network. Now we are way more civilised and use Wireless Local Area Networks.

The first password is free

The trouble is that with wifi every person with a passcode gets one step closer to gaining access to your router settings and since we are all staying in cafés and hotels we always have the initial passcode to get us access to the network.

Accessing your router as admin

The step from gaining access to a network (logging in with a password) to having complete control of it is actually tiny.

All you have to do is type in 192.168.1.1 in your computers browser. Most of the time this will land you directly in the control panel for your browser. But to get to another page you need to figure out the username and password for the router.

The tale of the default passwords

Being a designer of router has to be a terrible job. 99.99% of your customer only care about your router once when they set it up and never want to be bothered with your product ever again.

They also might want to be able to adjust some settings without completely resetting the router. And for that they need a password.

But since almost nobody cares about their routers most people just keep their default passwords which is *drumroll*

username: admin
password: admin

Typing in this username and password will get you access to lots and lots of routers.

With our new found access we can do a lot of things.

  • We could potentially give my computer the highest priority on the network and increase its share of network traffic (faster internet hurray!)
  • We could also kick devices of the network. I could try this out by kicking my girlfriends iPhone from the network.
  • But we aren’t gonna do any of those things since accessing other peoples routers might be illegal. Instead I’m just gonna relax and watch another sunset.

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The nomad lifestyle

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After spending more then 50 days travelling I’m starting to get comfortable with the digital nomad lifestyle.

I realised that this is something that I’ve been doing for years and that I’ve actually spent most of my trips this way.

I always spent time coding whether I hung out with friends in the US or  spent time surfing in Indonesia or when visiting my dad in New Zealand.

The perks of doing this as a digital nomad is that supposedly you get people to pay you for your work.

Right now I’m enjoying spending my time learning new things. I’ve coded a bunch of iOS applications and I’m working on finding the perfect setup for my own Ubuntu servers. I would also like to spend some time giving back to the community and teach others how to get started with coding and being a digital nomad.

But if you know someone who would need help with web development or iOS applications I would be glad to help them out.