Hacking Setup Linux Native Chipsets and Drivers

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Everyone who is used to working with wireless cards and drivers under a Windows-based operating system (OS) environment would assume that what works under Windows also works under Linux. To date, most people, even "technical" folk, assume that any wireless card will work under Linux. This would be true for the everyday enduser who doesn't need to access the more esoteric operational modes and functionality that an auditor needs. Anyone who uses Linux to conduct wireless hacking/auditing for their organization or for third parties will have to do a fair bit of research and development before purchasing a wireless card that will support their hacking/auditing requirements.

Why is this the case? The answer is simple: It doesn't matter if a wireless card is made by Linksys, Dlink, Netgear, or whoever puts their brand name on the box. What matters most is what's under the hood, i.e., the chipset that drives the beast called the wireless network interface card (WNIC). However, big problems surface when shopping for a

WNIC: How do you know what chipset is being used for a particular make and model? The big brands don't exactly want to tell you what's under the hood because what sets one guy apart from the other is branding. If the consumer knows that card A and card B have the same chipset, then he or she no longer has a reason to pay any premium price based on brand name. The only logical reason to pay a premium price is for any additional capabilities offered by the chipset (in conjunction with the relevant drivers, of course). Having said that, we will take a closer look at the major chipset manufacturers offering Linux-driver support at the time of writing. We'll ignore obsolescent Orinoco or Prism 2/2.5/3 cards because these cards are no longer carried by your average retail store (they are, however, still available in secondhand stores or occasionally on EBay if anyone is interested). Instead, we'll look at those chipsets that are more likely to be found on the shelves of computer shops today.

Before delving into that listing though, here's a word to the wise for anyone purchasing a WNIC: Regardless of whether the WNIC matches the listing below or not, choose one with a chipset that has native driver support—this means an open-source or a vendor-provided driver that works directly in the Linux environment, without needing any kind of third-party software "wrapping" (providing an abstraction layer) around the driver and interfacing between the driver and the OS. In the following pages, we have outlined some chipset/driver combos that are native and others that require a third-party wrapper to work. We won't get into any mundane discussion about the merits of 802.11n vs. 802.11g vs. 802.11b vs. 802.11a, as that topic has been beaten to death by online reviewers; our focus is helping you get a WNIC that works natively under Linux.

And contrary to what many people think, including some self-proclaimed "experts" who advise people on what they think a hacker would be interested in, a real pro would absolutely have to know this level of fundamental information about his or her hardware in order to use it effectively. Owning a gun and not knowing how to load bullets is analogous to the self-professed "hacker" who doesn't know the ins and outs of the wireless hardware he or she uses. So this section is mandatory for those who want to get maximum auditing mileage out of their wireless hardware.

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