) is another OS X tool that shares a name with the
popular monitoring tool Kismet [Hack #31]. This is a much more
advanced network discovery and monitoring tool than either
iStumbler [Hack #22].
As stated earlier, active scanners work by sending out probe requests
to all available access points. Since these scanners rely on
responses to active probing, it is possible for network
administrators to detect the presence of tools like MacStumbler and
iStumbler (as well as NetStumbler [Hack #21], miniStumbler [Hack #23], or any other tool that makes use of active network probes).
KisMAC is a passive network scanner. Rather than
send out active probe requests, it instructs the wireless card to
tune to a channel, listen for a short time, then tune to the next
channel, listen for a while, and so on. In this way, it is possible
to not only detect networks without announcing your presence, but
also find networks that don't respond to probe
requests—namely, "closed" networks (APs
that have beaconing disabled). But that's not all.
Passive monitors have access to every frame that the radio can hear
while tuned to a particular channel. This means that you can not only
detect access points, but also the wireless clients of those APs.
The standard AirPort driver doesn't provide the
facility for passive monitoring, so KisMAC uses the open source
Viha AirPort driver (http://www.dopesquad.net/security/). It swaps
the Viha driver for your existing AirPort driver when the program
starts, and automatically reinstalls the standard driver on exit. To
accomplish this driver switcheroo, you have to provide your
administrative password when you start KisMAC. Note that while KisMAC
is running, your regular wireless connection is unavailable. KisMAC
also supplies drivers for Orinoco/Avaya/Proxim cards, as well as
Prism II-based wireless cards.
KisMAC's main screen provides much of the same
information as MacStumbler or iStumbler. But double-clicking any
available network shows a wealth of new information (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Wireless network details in KisMAC.
One interesting side effect of passive scanning is that
isn't 100 percent reliable. Since 802.11b channels
overlap, it is sometimes difficult for a passive scanner to know for
certain which channel an access point is tuned to, and it can be one
off from time to time. The AP in Figure 2 is
actually set to channel 3, although it is reported as channel 2.
KisMAC allows you to specify which
channels you would like to scan on. This can help if you are trying
to find access points that are using the same channel as your own.
See Figure 2.
Figure 2. You can select only the channels you need to scan in KisMAC.
KisMAC has a slew of nifty features, including GPS support, raw frame
injection (for Prism II and Orinoco cards), and even a real-time
relative traffic graph (Figure 3). If it detects
a WEP network, it can use a number of
advanced techniques to try to guess the password. And yes, it can
even read discovered ESSIDs aloud.
Figure 3. Show the relative traffic of all detected networks, without transmitting a single bit.
Perhaps the most powerful feature of all is
KisMAC's ability to
log raw 802.11 frames to a standard pcap dump. Check the
"Keep Everything" or the
"Data Only" option in preferences
to save a dump file that can be read by tools such as Ethereal [Hack #39].
KisMAC is probably the most advanced wireless network monitor
available for OS X, although it is still quite beta. I keep
MacStumbler and iStumbler handy, as they both are slightly more
stable and can operate without removing the AirPort driver. If you
are simply looking for available networks, then KisMAC is probably
overkill. But sometimes you need as much detail as you can get to
troubleshoot difficult network problems, and when you do, KisMAC can
be the right tool for the job.