Wireless Security Part 2

This week I was in a moral dilemma; we have just moved in to the new house and haven’t yet got a phone line or broadband connection.Writing and sending my Click article does require a certain amount of Internet access and so resigned myself to travelling back to the office at ten o’clock on this Tuesday evening unless someone out there was kind enough to be broadcasting a wireless signal that I could hitch on to.

Whilst I theoretically know how to crack a wireless network with minimal encryption, I decided that this could be considered a little un-neighbourly and so drew a line by saying I would only make a connection in the unlikely event that there was someone broadcasting with absolutely no security installed whatsoever.It turns out that what I assumed would be an unlikely possibility was actually surprisingly obtainable; as I sat in my conservatory I quickly picked up a dozen wireless Internet connections with three of them being completely unprotected.

Instantly I knew what I would be writing my article on this week; if you consider that within a very tight radius of my conservatory there were three unprotected connections I dread to think how many thousands exist in Torbay.Whilst I was able to send this article as a result of their oversight, the situation could have been a lot more serious if I’d have had malicious intentions in mind.

Wireless technology is currently treading a fine line; the technology inherently needs to be secure since the signal is usually broadcast well beyond the four walls of the property that the network is designed to serve, however they are also designed to be used by computer users with only a very basic working knowledge.Since security and usability don’t go hand in hand, the former is usually discarded in favour of the latter.It is reasoned by the manufacturers that whilst Joe Public probably doesn’t have anything they particularly care to hide from the world, they would be rather irate if they couldn’t get their wireless network set up without assistance within 10 minutes of removing the router from the box.

The reality is that whether or not you have something to hide from the world, you don’t want anyone with a wireless card in a 100 metre radius having access to your network.If we put aside the most serious possibility of someone obtaining confidential information from your compromised network there is also the fact they may simply abuse your Internet connection.Every couple of weeks I speak to a new person who wants a wireless network card so they can access their neighbours’ Internet connection for free; even if they only use it for simple tasks it will affect the speed of their network as well as counting towards any usage limit if on a metered connection.There is also the real possibility that if they use your connection for less savoury activities then it will have the IP address associated with your Internet account stamped all over it.

Fortunately securing your network is a simple process that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.There are several methods of securing your network from the popular WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol) and MAC filtering to the more recent and secure WPA standard.It is important to choose the right one as there are some serious security flaws in some of the standards so we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages to both next week.


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.