Your wireless network may be vulnerable
Not long ago, I visited a friend of mine at his condo in Waikiki and found him in front of a laptop staring at the screen.
"Check this out," he said. "There are at least four unsecured wireless networks within a hundred feet or so from my laptop. I wonder if any of these people understand how vulnerable they are to hackers?"
He was right. Any one of these wireless networks, set up by individuals in the building, were open to bad guys who might want to try to steal their identities, look into their finances or read their most personal correspondence.
Similarly, in a survey conducted in late April by Secure Ike, a Honolulu-based IT security trade group, a group of 25 volunteers divided into nine driving teams and fanned out across Oahu with the sole purpose of investigating wireless security. The outcome: Secure Ike discovered at 6,000 access points and collected over 40 megabytes of data.
"The results of our research were alarming," said Anthony Giandomenico, president of Secure DNA, which participated in the survey, "We found that approximately 52 percent of residential networks were unsecured--they had no encryption and were wide open to abuse."
Even businesses, Giandomenico said , were less secure than one might think.
"Only 33 percent of businesses," he said "had encryption."
Meanwhile 45 percent of all sites used the factory default SSID or network name, which made them much more vulnerable to hackers.
What can consumers or small business owners do to protect themselves?
Giandomenico offered these suggestions.
» Make sure you've set up WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption. All manufacturers include this and it's easily installed.
» Disconnect your wireless router (pull the plug) when you're not using it.
» Don't broadcast your SSID or network name. This usually can be done by checking off a box on your router's set-up program. While you're at it, change your SSID name to something other than the default out of the box.
» Turn off your DHCP (Dynamic addressing)when you're not using the network.
» Place your access point or router in the middle of your home. This will limit the broadcast radius or coverage of your home network.
Wireless networks are one of the coolest technologies you can deploy. However, an open network can also lead to a nightmare if you don't do your homework.
is general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org