I travel a lot, and on occasion I’ll run Nmap or some other scanner from my hotel room to get an idea of what’s out there, and how dangerous these hotel networks really are. To be honest it’s not something I do all that much anymore since even scanning an open network is running the risk of being considered over the line.

But I just discovered a new security tool. It’s free. And it even plays music!

Yes, the ever venerable and recently updated iTunes turns out to be an honest to goodness, if limited, security scanner.

How? Well, I arrived in my hotel room last night, connected to the network, and launched iTunes for some background working music.

Very quickly I saw four shared iTunes libraries on the network (without even looking actively, if you have iTunes set to find shared libraries they pop up all on their own after that).

Some of my fellow traveler’s musical tastes are fairly interesting. In three of the four libraries the users conveniently included their personal name in their shared library name. One user even had the word “Limewire” in his (judging by his real name) library name.

Huh. I wonder if he acquired all the music legally?

Thus iTunes is now my new network security tool- I can instantly tell if I’m connected to a switched or segregated network, and even pick up the names and listening habits of other hotel guests.

Anyone know if the RIAA offers a bounty? I mean they sue grandmothers and children, I don’t see why they wouldn’t start a confidential informant project.

(Update 9/16 : DM and Chris Pepper remind me this feature isn’t anything new. Actually, I’ve used it for years on my home network, but this is the first time I’ve noticed random users on a hotel network and I found it amusing.)