Wi-Fi optimize

Use kismon to view kismet log files

Scott Reeves introduces a GUI front-end available to users of Kismet, the wireless network detecting tool.

In a post on 12/2/2011, I covered using kismet to detect wireless networks. The version of kismet I use (which is also the latest) has an older-style semi graphical interface. Now I did grow up using command line interfaces, but I'm not averse to using a GUI. Although the native kismet package does not include a full GUI, other people have worked on creating GUIs to read the log files kismet produces. On the links section of the kismet wireless site is a link to kismon, which is a simple and practical GUI for reading kismet data files. You can download kismon from sourceforge or from the kismon author's site.

To begin with you will need to start the kismet server. This requires one change to the file kismet.conf (located in /etc/kismet). This change is so that the kismet server knows which Wi-Fi interface to use. Hence, you will need to know what the Wi-Fi interface is called. In this example, the interface used is wlan0. Look for the line ncsource in the kismet.conf file. Change this so that it reflects the interface. For this example the line in the kismet.conf file looks like this:

ncsource=wlan0

The next step is to start the kismet server. The command to use is kismet_server. I usually either redirect the output to /dev/null or to a log file.

The command string then will be something similar to the below

kismet_server >/dev/null 2>&1
Once the kismet server has been successfully started, kismon can be run. kismon defaults to the same port setting as the default kismet port setting, so if you haven't changed the default kismet setting, kismon will automatically start and read in the kismet output. The kismon GUI is as shown in Figure A. It is a relatively simple interface with just a few menu options.

Figure A

Click to enlarge to full page.

As kismet picks up four different types of networks (probe, data, ad-hoc, and infrastructure), you may wish to uncheck some of the options. You can do this by following the menu option :

view → network type

Following this will bring up the four different network types. This is one of the nice features of kismon; it allows you to easily select what types of network to view. Usually, you only want to see infrastructure networks (that is, networks with a Wi-Fi router controlling the network). The remaining networks can then be unchecked. The example shown only views infrastructure networks.

You can also use regular expressions so that only specified SSID or BSSID are displayed. This menu option is under:

view → SSID (regular expression)
view → BSSID (regular expression)

In this case, I only wanted to view the routers called "ning" and "nogudar". The regular expression I used was "ning|nogudar".

The other aspect of kismon is being able to quickly sort the Wi-Fi routers by the signal strength ( measured in dB ). This can be very handy when you are expanding an existing Wi-Fi network and you want to check signal strength in an office at the other end of the building. As discussed in previous posts, knowing which channels are in use and the signal strength assists in wireless planning.

In summary, kismon is a straightforward and easy to use tool that provides a nice front end to kismet. It provides all the information kismet collects, but with the extra benefit of having a fully fledged GUI.

About

Scott Reeves has worked for Hewlett Packard on HP-UX servers and SANs, and has worked in similar areas in the past at IBM. Currently he works as an independent IT consultant, specializing in Wi-Fi networks and SANs.

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