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Wireless Security - 4 Insecure Issues of Wireless Technology



Wireless Security Issues


Wireless has been in the news a lot lately, and some analysts (at least on Wall Street) say that wireless may be the next big tech boom. (Hopefully, this won't be followed by the next big tech bust.)


As an example, Verizon Communications made its most aggressive move yet into the Wi-Fi wireless LAN market last week when it announced it would offer free access across New York City to DSL subscribers.


Verizon is wirelessly enabling 10 million residents with 1000 hot spots broadcasting from public phone locations. The goal is to lure customers to broadband and keep them on the carrier's service. Verizon is counting on free Wi-Fi creating loyalty and driving penetration rates beyond the typical 10% to 15% level achieved by other RBOCs.


Some cable and DSL carriers find this news disturbing, but the growth of wireless has been worldwide, especially in third-world countries where there has never been any cable infrastructure.


There are however a number of security issues that are unique to wireless devices.

The main problem comes from the fact that wireless devices are most often used in public; i.e., on the street,on buses, in lobbies or other places where large crowds gather, making it easy for eavesdroppers to see the displays.


Also, in order to speed up connection to the server, some users save their passwords and other IDs onto their devices. If a wireless device is lost or stolen, then a password to the main server can be obtained.


Finally, PDAs,cellphones, pagers and other devices dependent on wireless communication all contain highly miniaturized parts. The visual interfaces and keypads are quite small as well, and consequently some users tend to create simple, obvious passwords.



Wireless Insecurity Issues


Wireless technology is begining to replace traditional cable networking in some offices. This could result in a convergence of duties for the LAN manager, since devices for building security and maintenance could also become part of the LAN.


Second, security issues will be more difficult to handle, since data sent through the air is easier to capture and more subject to interference than data sent through cables. (Your TV reception is usually better on cable, isn't it?)


Third, wireless reception is available only for short distances. The area of a room or length of a hallway is the maximum area in which a wireless "hot spot" can exist. It's not surprising, then, that wireless use is growing fastest in homes, coffee houses and small areas where an "internet cafe" is possible. Corporate use of wireless outside of corporate buildings is not widespread and probably won't be for a few more years.


Fourth, what's the wireless ROI? Obviously, if the McDonald's chain sets up a hotspot where wireless devices can function, it may win ROI in the goodwill that it brings its cutomers. If business people on the run, not to stop into McDonald's for a burger and to use their laptop to get onto the Internet, then McD's may gain a whole new market of customers.


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I was in the local drug store last night, perusing the beverage aisle, when I noticed a gentleman a few feet away from me talking to himself. He was talking in an unusually loud voice, since most people mumble when they talk with themselves.


I was sort of amused by this, but then I noticed a thin cable coming from his right ear, and a device of some sort attached to his belt. Okay, obviously this guy was talking over some wireless device, but why was he talking so loudly?


I couldn't help hearing what he was saying. He was arguing with several family members about bills and a few other things. In other words, I could learn about all this guy's personal possessions, problems and anything else he wanted to blabber about himself.


I wasn't interested in any of this so I grabbed my bottled water and proceeded to the checkout counter. I drove home, still chuckling about this individual, when it occurred to me that I'd heard numerous other people chattering away in public places over their cell phones. How insecure can you get? All the security software in the world isn't going to conceal your "data" from eavesdroppers if you have a booming voice that you can't restrain.


Back in the days of phone booths, you could close a door behind you and no one would hear your conversation. Nobody could look over your shoulder to watch you send messages through some wireless PDA. In other words, phone booths were more secure than today's wireless devices.



By: Roy Troxel


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