Security problems still plague retailers’ wireless LANs

A large-scale scan by Motorola’s AirDefense group has found that wireless LAN vulnerabilities in retailer networks though much improved over last year, are still all too common, despite repeated, widely-publicized wireless security breaches.

The scan of WLANs in big city shopping malls found about 44 per cent of some 3,900 client devices detected, including barcode scanners, notebooks PCs and mobile computers, could be compromised, according to Motorola AirDefense CTO Amit Sinha.

That percentage is a huge drop from last year’s survey, which found 85 per cent of the detected client devices were exposed in various ways.

Retailer access points were better protected: 68 per cent of just over 7,900 access points were using some kind of encryption, leaving nearly one-third of them with no data scrambling at all. That percentage is worse than last year, which found that 35 per cent of the detected access points were wide open. And of those that were encrypted, 25 per cent in the new survey were using Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP), a flawed encryption scheme that can be cracked in minutes by a knowledgeable attacker, according to Sinha.

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