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updated 4/25/2011 5:48:54 PM ET 2011-04-25T21:48:54

Seattle police are investigating a criminal ring they believe used a specially outfitted Mercedes to hack into the Wi-Fi networks of area businesses, a practice called "wardriving."

After police arrested Joshua Witt and Brad Lowe in January for nine burglaries, alleging they stole $750,000 worth of computer servers in a 10-month period, authorities began looking into their criminal past, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

Authorities said a black Mercedes was the lynchpin in their cybercrime spree, which dates back to May 2006.

The accused pair are suspected of using the 1988 sedan as a hacking lab on wheels; when they seized it, police found a laptop with a mount enabling it to be used while driving, tools to create networks and a long-range antenna, all shielded behind the car's darkly tinted windows.

Seattle Police Detective Chris Hansen said Witt and Lowe and others used the cars' hacking capabilities to crack Wi-Fi networks' Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) security encryption, an outdated level of network security that has since been replaced.

"Wardriving" comes from the 1983 Matthew Broderick film "WarGames," in which his hacker character "wardials" hundreds of phone numbers to find a modem.

Once the wardrivers cracked into a business's Wi-Fi network, Hansen told the court the hackers could use the tools in the car to "run programs such as port-scanning software and password recovery software," allowing them to steal personal and financial data from that company's clients, customers or employees.

The Secret Service has seized the wardriving car, and its owner has been arrested, although he has not yet been charged with a crime.

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