Wireless Security

Wireless networking has become very commonplace and many restaurants, hotels, airports, and schools provide Wi-Fi connections. In addition, today’s smart phones can create a personal wireless network that uses the cellular data plan and share it with multiple devices. Many of these wireless networks are not secured or use very weak encryption techniques and users are at risk of exposing sensitive information and data.

Unsecured Wi-Fi

The information you send over an unsecured Wi-Fi network is not encrypted. A user should be aware that any usernames, passwords, credit card number, or other data will be sent in clear text. Other users with access to the wireless network will be able to capture and read that information. If you must use unsecured Wi-Fi, make sure that you only send sensitive data like usernames and passwords using the HTTPS, secure web protocol. A user may also want to find out if their company provides an encrypted virtual private network (VPN) that they can use to connect over wireless to secure their traffic. There are also a number of pay for service VPN providers.

Weak Security Wi-Fi

Some Wi-Fi networks are secured with the Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP), a networking standard. Its intention was to provide encryption of your network traffic. This proved to be too weak of a standard and allowed for very quick and efficient cracking of network traffic. Many old Wi-Fi networks still use this standard and any connection using WEP should be done as if it is an unsecured Wi-Fi. WEP has been replaced with Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) and should be the prefered for wireless networks.

  • Remember that data sent through an unsecure Wi-Fi network is sent in the clear and can be intercepted.
  • Wireless data is not limited to just the range of your computer. Hackers can increase their range by using amplified antennas to intercept the signal from greater distances.
  • Be cautious about the wireless networks you join.
  • Be careful about what information you are sending. You should never send personal information such as a user id, password, banking information, or credit card numbers.
  • You should always restrict email use.
  • You should disable shared folders.