New technology, same old mistakes

Some worrying news on wireless networks has emerged in the UK last week.

  • E-Mail
By  Mark Sutton Published  March 9, 2002

Some worrying news on wireless networks has emerged in the UK last week.

The BBC reports that hackers have worked out how to create simple antennae, that greatly increases their ability to detect wireless networks—and surprise, surprise the majority of corporate wireless networks are wide open because companies don’t follow the most simple security procedures.

The dangers from ‘war driving’, where hackers equipped with wireless-enabled note books drive around looking for wireless networks have been both over played and played down by the security industry, but the homemade antenna, and the growing popularity of wireless networks is showing up a very real security vulnerability.

These antennae can be made from simple household items like old coffee tins and even empty cans of Pringles crisps—they are neither conspicuous or hard to make, but they are effective. In one test in London’s financial district, a security consultant identified 60 corporate networks in just 30 minutes. Of those, 67% were wide open.

With statistics like these, it is not surprising that not all of the countries in the Middle East are comfortable with authorising wireless networking devices just yet. But the technology is not just being used for negative purposes. In the US in particular, communities are increasing the bandwidth they have available with these home grown devices.

If one person with a high bandwidth Internet connection and a wireless base station puts an antenna on their house, they can then share that bandwidth with any friends and neighbours who have a wireless networking card and a password, within a radius of about 500 metres—the set up has been dubbed the Neighbourhood Area Network or NAN. The connectivity benefits this could bring, especially for remote rural areas are obvious.

And corporate security fears should not deny the rest of us the benefits of wireless. The 67% of networks that were found to be vulnerable had all made the same mistake—they had not turned on the basic encryption that is included as standard with all wireless networking.

Companies are making the same mistakes with their wireless networks as they do with their wired networks—use of default names for equipment, weak password protocols, not using security features, either built in ones or additional equipment.

OK, there are some new considerations with wireless—don’t put wireless hubs near windows is an interesting one—but on the whole, the deployment of wireless is being held up by the same stupid mistakes that are made time and again. Wouldn’t it be good if just for once companies thought about these things before they went and left great big holes in their networks?

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code