Why Do Users Name Their “FBI Surveillance Van” Wi-Fi?

For some reason, every American has a negative attitude towards the FBI. Most likely because there used to be a lot of rumors that the FBI uses the “FBI Surveillance Van” Wi-Fi to monitor internet users on Wi-Fi networks. 

Even though this is a somewhat outdated joke, and for sure many people know about it, other people believe the story is true.

Therefore, today we’ve decided to tell you about the history of the origin of this Wi-Fi name, and why it has become popular with ordinary users.

Previously, we’ve told you about funny Wi-Fi pranks. You can read about them here

FBI Surveillance Van Wi-Fi prank 

The first mention that someone noticed a Wi-Fi network with this name appeared in 2011.

FBI surveillance van Wi-Fi prank

Then one of the popular journalists at Gawker mentioned this network name in telling the story of 17-year-old Jared Kano, who was accused by the FBI of planning to blowing up his school.

According to the journalist, Jared had posted a message on Facebook about detecting a Wi-Fi network called FBI_SURVEILLANCE_VAN while trying to find a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Of course, this turn of events attracted the attention of conspiracy theorists and just unsuspecting people who do not know that today you can choose a Wi-Fi network name yourself.

But a person who is more or less versed in new technologies and Wi-Fi networks is unlikely to believe that the FBI would so stupidly broadcast its presence wherever it goes. 

Therefore, if you see such a Wi-Fi name, you are looking at a prank in 100% of cases.

Why do you need a Wi-Fi network security key? Read more here.

Scammers use Wi-Fi for theft

It’s no secret that scammers often use such a function as an access point on the phone, renaming it to a more euphonious name that inspires users’ trust. 

Setting up the network name does not cause difficulties, especially for Android phones. First, you need to go to settings and select connections. Then select a mobile access point and connect. In the end, you need to enable the mobile access point.

After that, you need to select an access point, click on the network name, and change it. This Wi-Fi hotspot is displayed to everyone as a new Wi-Fi network called the “FBI Surveillance Van.”

Fortunately, for most people who understand the process of changing the access point name, this prank is obvious. But for unsuspecting people who don’t know anything about technology, this is a surreal network name to find appearing on their screen.

Neighbor prank with FBI Surveillance Van

Many of us probably have neighbors who call their Wi-Fi hotspot something like “FBI surveillance van.” 

But it’s much easier to name a network using a router than to do it using a mobile phone.

It would be best if you opened your internet router as an administrator to do this. Next, select the wireless network settings menu. Here you will see the Name (SSID) field.

FBI surveillance van Wi-Fi on the PC

Then you just need to add the necessary name for the network, and that’s it. So now all neighbors within 200 feet of this router will see this Wi-Fi network in the list.

Let’s agree, this is a foolish prank, but many people have done this over the past decade.

Are there real FBI Surveillance Vans that exist?

Reading this material, many of you may have thought: OK, but what do real FBI surveillance vans look like and are they used for surveillance operations? 

In reality, everything happens quite differently than in your imagination or superhero movies.

The FBI does not use such vans for surveillance, and even more so does not name the access point in this way. Instead, they have adopted numerous hacker tools for intercepting messages for a long time.

Back in 1998, according to a Wired article, the FBI used a network hacking tool called Carnivore.

This is the FBI’s own development, which can intercept data and filter the metadata of the contents of network messages. This required either a hardware connection to wired networks or a connection to Wi-Fi communications transmitted to and from the target’s own router.

The FBI surveillance vans do the opposite of transmitting their own Wi-Fi signal. The purpose of these vans is to remain as inconspicuous as possible. This includes the use of unmarked vans that look like contractor vehicles. 

This also includes maintaining an invisible electronics profile. Very little is transmitted from the equipment inside the van. It is designed to collect information, and nothing more.

FBI surveillance van Wi-Fi looks like

Recently, we’ve written about the leaked FBI list that included dangerous messengers to use.

What surveillance tools does the FBI use?

In fact, hacking any encrypted private Wi-Fi network is easier than ever for the FBI. To do this, they use a key logger designed to capture the target’s network (and other) passwords.

Other tools used by the FBI over the years have included:

2001 – Magic Lantern: A remotely installed tool that can record computer keystrokes, browsing history, and open ports.

2009 – CIPAV: Collected IP address, MAC address, open ports, installed software, and registry information.

2012 – Watering Hold: The Feds are implementing spyware on websites that they frequently visit. This infects target computers to reveal their real IP addresses (useful if the targets use a VPN to hide their identity).

These are tools that the FBI used a few years ago. At the moment, it is even difficult to guess how far their technologies have gone and in what way they monitor each of us.

After 9/11, the courts issuing search warrants to the FBI have become much more lenient, allowing the widespread use of these technologies. In addition, they are much more flexible in what they allow the FBI to do in their information gathering activities.

By the way, and if you think that an ordinary American has nothing to worry about because the purpose of wiretaps is to catch a terrorist or hacker, then this is not so. Just the suspicion of a user being involved in any crime gives the authorities permission to spy on him.

And unfortunately, today an ordinary citizen will really need a little effort to get out from under the scope of surveillance.


You can ask the question: is it right to use such a prank? From a moral point of view, it is wrong. After all, hiding under a name like “FBI surveillance van” and then telling people about the harmful threat would not be the best idea.

It is best not to use such words related to surveillance or government agencies in the name of your Wi-Fi network or anywhere else. After all, such a prank can cost you serious consequences.

And to all those who still see the name “FBI surveillance van” in the list of available Wi-Fi points, know that if you were under surveillance in reality, you would never have found out about it.

Be aware of scammers and hackers. Follow these tips to be protected.


Leave a Reply

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.