Co.Design

A Clever Hack Turns Wi-Fi Signals Into Digital Graffiti

The next time your neighbors open their wireless network drop-down list, greet them with a very special message.

Even if you’ve never spoken to them, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced your neighbors’ "clever" senses of humor via their Wi-Fi network names. Popping up in your drop-down of available hotspots, they may take cheap shots at your taste in music, pets, even spouses (hey, I’m sure it’s happened somewhere). But there’s no reason that your Wi-tticisms need to be drowned out by theirs.

WifiTagger is a hack by Addie Wagenknecht. It rewrites the firmware of a TP-Link WR741ND router so that, instead of just broadcasting its single network name (called the SSID), it will broadcast up to four separate 32-character messages as their own SSIDs. Tagging the digital space is simple: If you’re lucky enough to own the right model of router, simply log in to your network with a smartphone and update the messages as often as you’d like. Wagenknecht designed the software so that anyone in range can connect to the hacked router without a password to rename its networks, envisioning it as a sort of public forum.

On one hand, it’s just a silly little hack. On the other, WifiTagger is part of a new wave of digital civil disobedience. Whereas spraypaint was the preferred tool in previous eras of snarky comments in public spaces, it’s apps like WifiTagger and tricks like Glitchr (a Facebook page dedicated solely to breaking Facebook’s "pristine" layout) that may well be the voice of young rebels raised online.

Because in an era when we’re all living our lives in the cloud, who’s going to see your studied depiction of mammary glands on the side of a train car? Protest digitally, kids. And to get the best bang for your buck, do so as close to free coffee-shop Wi-Fi as humanly possible.

Get it here.

[Hat tip: Creators Project]

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