Understanding Wireless LAN Security
Wireless local area networks
Wireless local area networks (WLANs) uses radio frequencies to send and receive data and information over an organization’s computer network. WLANs are ideal for organizations that use devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops that use WI-FI and Bluetooth technology, because of its flexibility in installation, mobility, functionality and scalability.
If a company, knowingly or not, has left an open and unencrypted wireless network set up, or has not activated router security features, anyone within close proximity to this network can gain access to the networked resources and Internet through the company’s network using a laptop with standard Wi-Fi capabilities.
Connecting to an unprotected wireless network is as simple as searching for a connection through the laptop’s network connection wizard. This leaves the business’s network open to spam, but also to be used as a proxy for criminal activities launched from its IP address.
WLAN security threats
There are three main WLAN security threats that must be monitored for at all times.
Denial of service: This occurs when unauthorized users bombard a wireless network with traffic in order to disrupt its normal operation. Since wireless networks use radio signals, they are easier to overwhelm.
- Piggybacking: When unauthorized users intercept data transmissions from the radio frequency being transmitted across the wireless network, it can expose confidential information that could compromise the business.
- Hijacking: This threat happens when unauthorized users gain access to a user account to access to restricted information and resources. It mainly occurs when the network fails to verify the source address when granting access.
Ways to secure the WLAN
Companies can implement a number of security options and configurations to help protect against WLAN-related threats.
Having an unencrypted and open network that is isolated from actual network resources.
- Configure the access restrictions for the network access points on a closed network.
- Use encryption for both wired and wireless networks with independent logins and passwords for all resources that are restricted to internal use.
Many Canadian organizations are turning to wireless technologies when upgrading their IT networks, due to implementation ease and business benefits; in particular there has been a significant increase in the use of wireless technologies on the LAN. Still, using wireless technologies inside a business opens up a number of very real security concerns that must be addressed.
Sunday, September 08, 2002Worldwide 'war drive' exposes insecure wireless LANs Amateur wireless LAN sniffers detected hundreds and potentially thousands of insecure business and home industry-standard wireless LANs in North America and Europe during the past week in a loosely organized electronic scavenger hunt dubbed the "Worldwide Wardrive."