Securing Wireless NetworksThe demand for access to the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds every day. As a result, wireless networks are cropping up everywhere—coffee shops, bookstores, airports, doctor’s offices, and more—in an attempt to meet the need.

In a recent Cisco Survey, it was determined that consumers now own (on average) three mobile devices each, almost all of which are Wi-Fi capable. Therefore, it makes sense that consumers set up wireless networks in their home environments to manage these devices without the need for endless outlets and cords. Doing so, however, requires that a few preventive measures be taken. Understanding how Wi-Fi works and the security threats associated are half the battle.

According to Homeland Security’s Alerts and Tips Blog, these straightforward, easy to follow suggestions provide the answers to these very questions:

How do wireless networks work?

If your home, office, airport, or even local coffee shop has a wireless connection, you can access the network from anywhere that is within that wireless area.

Wireless networks rely on radio waves rather than wires to connect computers to the Internet. A transmitter, known as a wireless access point or gateway, is wired into an Internet connection. This provides a “hotspot” that transmits the connectivity over radio waves. Hotspots have identifying information, including an item called an SSID (service set identifier) that allow computers to locate them. Computers that have a wireless card and have permission to access the wireless frequency can take advantage of the network connection. Some computers may automatically identify open wireless networks in a given area, while others may require that you locate and manually enter information such as the SSID.

What security threats are associated with wireless networks?

Because wireless networks do not require a wire between a computer and the Internet connection, it is possible for attackers who are within range to hijack or intercept an unprotected connection. A practice known as wardriving involves individuals equipped with a computer, a wireless card, and a GPS device driving through areas in search of wireless networks and identifying the specific coordinates of a network location. This information is then usually posted online. Some individuals who participate in or take advantage of wardriving have malicious intent and could use this information to hijack your home wireless network.”

To find out how you can mitigate the risks when setting up a wireless network, see the full blog post, US-CERT’s Security Tip ST05-003.


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Securing Wireless Networks

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