Archive for February, 2009

Most of us have heard of wireless LANs, and use them for everything from Apple’s App Store to Zoho Office without a second thought. (Web browsing? What a ridiculous concept in the modern day!) What most of us don’t know is that our data may be at risk.

I recently took a walk on Dubai’s the famed Sheikh Zayed Road with my laptop’s wi-fi active. Using Kismet, a wireless network scanning tool, I was able to discover a total of 1114 wireless networks, over a 1.3 km stretch, at ground level only. If that didn’t come as a shocker, try this: half of them were _blatantly_ insecure.


To be precise, 558 / 1114 wireless networks were wide open to nefarious war-drivers and piggy-backers.You could see them on a standard issue Windows laptop – without the little yellow lock that indicates a password or some level of security. Thee guys, and their internet connections, printers and networked computers, were essentially unprotected from outsiders.

From the statistics you’d probably think that the other half are doing alright. In fact, the 29% “WEP” are not. WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy, and that it is certainly not. Flaws have been discovered in the error-checking algorithms used to encrypt and decrypt the invisible information streams, and exploiting them takes a mere 5-10 minutes on a wireless network with a reasonable level of traffic. Your average Windows XP laptop user looking for a quick email/Facebook check is probably deterred, but certainly not your Linux-wielding computer geek ( hint, hint 😉 ). In short, WEP.

The only way to be reasonably secure a wireless network, in a cost-effective manner, is to enable WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), with AES, on your home/small office wireless router. As always, picture provided for your convenience:

Portions of this image attributable to Linksys/Cisco Systems.

Wireless LANs are incredibly useful and adaptable, but if they are not suitably secured they quickly become a liability.

For obervations/more info, use the shout-box below. Stay safe!


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