Wireless left wide open to prowlers

Wireless security is still a hot topic and a recently launched online survey shows that in many cases it’s still inadequate.

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based LucidLink Wireless Security set up a 12-question assessment earlier this month that asked respondents to assess how well they are securing their wireless networks.

The three-minute anonymous survey asks such things as: Do you have any type of security in your access points or router? Do you use WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)? and do you leave your wireless network on all the time or shut it off when not in use?

Wayne Burkan, vice-president of marketing with LucidLink felt compelled to offer such an assessment on his company’s Web site because of the results of a survey LucidLink sponsored last month on the subject.

“Wireless is becoming explosive in use but there are so many people that didn’t know how vulnerable they were,” Burkan said. “Unprotected wireless is phenomenally dangerous, that is why we launched the survey to give people a sense of assessment.” During the survey’s first week of availability on LucidLink’s Web site 355 participants took the assessment.

Burkan noted 60 per cent of respondents said they had no security of any kind and added that WEP is woefully inadequate for wireless security. He also noted 70 per cent of respondents do not turn off their access points. While some access points may not have an on-off switch, Burkan suggested one could simply pull the plug out to turn it off.

Each question is assigned 100 points, Burkan said, and the lower your score the better your wireless network is protected. He said on average respondents have been scoring around 800 points. After completing the survey, tips are offered on how to better secure one’s wireless network.

The questionnaire is aimed at those who may not be technically proficient but uses wireless technology.

“The industry is slow to educate people. If you want to learn about the vulnerability of wireless you go and read [about it but] much of it is very technical and difficult to understand,” Burkan said.

One of the main outcomes of an unprotected wireless network Burkan said, is identity theft.

“Professional hackers go in and steal information and come back again. [It’s] easy if not protected to keep on coming in and pull information out,” he said. A main cause of stolen data is users enabling file sharing on their wireless network.

Burkan added the greatest level of exposure comes from people who use Wi-Fi hot spots and those who use a POP3 account for their e-mail that broadcasts a user name and password.

“We are a reactive society, we wait for everyone to get burned until it becomes a pandemic and then we act, Wireless security is nowhere near where virus protection was a few years ago,” said Burkan about the lack of awareness.

And what does Burkan hope people will get out of this survey?

“My hope is people will do the common sense thing [and] turn off file sharing, turn off access points when not in use and change the shared key regularly,” Burkan answered. He added most people don’t because they have businesses to run and things to do and don’t want technology to be the centre of attention.

To take the survey visit: www.lucidlink.com

QuickLink: 058783

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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