It's Not Sniffing, but It's Unique and It's Free

I try my best to stick to real WiFi sniffing when doing this blog, but sometimes a new product comes along that is close enough that it deserves a mention. Meraki, the WiFi infrastructure vendor that specialized in cloud-based management of APs, has released a web-based tool called Meraki WiFi Stumbler. It's not a sniffer in that it doesn't capture frames or identify stations, but it does do typical stumbling functions without requiring an installed application, which is unique.


Meraki Stumbler is a free, Java-based tool that is available at the Meraki website. It's completely web-based, so you don't need to run a separate application.

The app is intentionally simple. It gives you basic 802.11 discovery information like SSID, security, signal strength, BSSID and channel. It does support both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, so you'll see and 802.11a/b/g/n APs in the area. The one oddity is that it ostensibly reads signal strength in dB (I'm assuming they mean dBm, to be precise), but higher integers correspond with a higher signal. In WiFi your received signal strength is always going to be in a negative number when read in dBm, so that means that a high integer would correspond to a low signal. My assumption here is that they are actually giving you a signal strength reading as a percentage, but that one of their developers mistakenly included the term "dB" when showing the signal strength.

As I wrote in the intro, the Meraki WiFi Stumbler is not really a sniffer in that it keeps your adapter in managed mode (working as a station). To do any real sniffing you need your WiFi adapter to be in monitor mode so that it can capture frames. Without capturing frames you can't see stations, you can't uncover non-broadcasting SSIDs and you can't troubleshoot performance problems by looking at things like data rates and Retry percentages.

Even with these limitations, I kind of like having the Meraki WiFi Stumbler available. It's something that may allow me to run one less app when I want to view basic WiFi information and it works across operating systems. I will say that I wonder when I'd actually use it (especially considering the fact that usually when I want a stumbler it's because I lack an Internet connection and this one requires an Internet connection to operate), but it's definitely something to keep in the back of my mind.

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