Thought for the day: Wireless trap is still snaring business

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.

Today, I joined Sky News, a laptop and an empty Pringles can on a tour of London's Square Mile.

The mission, to eavesdrop on wireless networks and identify those that had failed to put in place even the most rudimentary protection against any passer-by "dropping-in" to the network.

Just about every computer publication has warned against the flakiness of the wireless world, wide open as it is to hacker-friendly products such as AirSnort.

Wireless LAN (802.11) technology is increasingly attractive to business. I even have a Cisco Aeronet at home. It's wonderful, has no cables and I can browse the Web and collect my mail from anywhere in the house or garden. Trouble is, you might ask, have I protected myself by enabling the security? Probably not, I am after all at home and surely, wireless stays within the boundaries of my property? Of course it doesn't you'll tell me and the same applies to the 50 or so Wireless LANs that were picked up during the filming of the Sky News piece.

More than 60% of the networks detected were completely unprotected - not using Wired Equivalent Protocol encryption or indeed any type of encryption - they were simply wide open. In principle this allows anyone to piggy-back on the network for a free ride or worse, collect the traffic flowing back and forth along the network without anyone being the wiser.

It strikes me from looking at the statistics from today's small trawling exercise that far too many network administrators are taking stupid pills. After all that's happened in the last 12 months and the increasingly pervasive atmosphere of security that surrounds us, why on earth aren't they taking the simplest steps to protect their businesses? I vaguely remember telling my small daughter a bedtime story, probably Winnie the Pooh, which featured an "Idiot Trap". "What's an idiot trap?" she asked. "Something to do with Rabbit, a Pringles can and wireless networks", should have been my reply.

By the way, the Pringles can acts as a natural collector of wireless LAN signals. Cheese and onion works best!

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Zentelligence: Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and ramblings of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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