Wireless Network Monitor – The Monitor Mode

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Monitor mode refers to a particular operating mode of a wireless adapter, in which all received network frames are forwarded to the operating system and applications. It is one of the six configurations of 802.11 wireless cards. The six modes are as followed:

 

  • Master, the wireless adapter is acting as an access point
  • Managed, this will show you as a station and you are connected as a client
  • Ad-hoc
  • Mesh
  • Repeater, this is to repeat your signal for a higher range
  • Monitor Mode

 

Monitor Mode is used to collect data for WEP cracking but it can also be used for legitimate purpose. It can help to plan your Wi-Fi network and find other Wi-Fi devices in your range. This will avoid or reduce interferences for your own network and provide a better quality.


In monitor mode all received frames are forwarded and not just the network to which the client is currently connected. This stays in contrast to the promiscuous mode. One advantage is that not a single frame must be sent from your own network card and therefore the frames are not seen in any log files. Furthermore no network authentication is required. If the frame packets are encrypted, for example with WEP, they can be recorded and decrypted later.

Some network card drivers change into monitor mode to check the checksum of the cyclic redundancy check of the frame which results in incorrect frames that can be sent. So the integrity of the data is not really save in monitor mode.

In addition, not all drivers of wireless cards have the option to switch into monitor mode because it is not save at all. Some of the packets sent may be corrupted because in Monitor Mode the wireless adapter won't check if the cyclic redundancy check is correct.

 

If you'd like to read more about the technology behind a Wireless Monitor follow the link.

 

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