Wi-Fi Week: Mobility at the cost of security

The ability to log on to the Internet in a cafe or on a train has obvious benefits for workers on the road - but just how secure is it?

The mass media has had a lot of fun with wireless security: war driving, virus insertion and bandwidth stealing have all had their day in the sun. Public hot spots are more vulnerable to attack than private networks, where individual users can have their hardware authenticated as permanent network members. This means when you log onto a hot spot, there is a possibility that it has been compromised. It's not unknown for people to mount man-in-the-middle attacks, where they set up a bogus hot spot that overlaps with the provider's legitimate one, and then intercept logins.

If you are not connected to a service securely -- using SSL for websites, SSH for text services or a corporate VPN -- then you should be aware that your link may be transmitted in the clear and open to interception.  Some service providers do have extra security in their wireless links, but if they also allow roaming then you should check that the security is in place no matter who's running the hot spot.

But a bigger threat to security can come from flashing your laptop or expensive PDA around in a public place. Standard common sense is required, such as wearing your laptop bag across your torso instead of dangling it temptingly from one shoulder, and, if you're a member of the security services, then leaving state secrets behind in a bar is perhaps also inadvisable.

For more information on Wi-Fi security, check out the following links or click here:

Canadian arrest highlights the dangers of Wi-Fi
The arrest of a man using an unsecured Wi-Fi hot spot to view child pornography has highlighted how vulnerable wireless networks can be to 'war drivers'

Cisco Wi-Fi access point flaw lets snoopers in
A bug in some Aironet access points could make it a simple matter for an attacker to listen in on corporate networks

Senior management 'slow to understand wireless risks'
The proliferation of wireless networks throughout the enterprise means IT managers must implement proper security plans. But persuading the boss that it's worth the money could be a struggle

Poor Wi-Fi passwords 'invite attack'
Administrators must choose long, random passwords or risk their Wi-Fi connection being compromised

Security concerns hamper corporate Wi-Fi
Firms that are unconvinced about the wisdom of installing an 802.11b network may find their employees decide to rectify the situation with a trip to Dixons

Robot 'guard dog' sniffs out Wi-Fi holes
DefCon: A group of security experts have created a two-wheeled robot that detects security problems in Wi-Fi networks