Securing the wireless network

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The call-to-action for London businesses to respond to the increasing threat of cyber-attack across insecure wireless networks has started to have an impact; however, businesses should not be complacent.

 

Using a laptop computer and free software available from the Internet, researchers were able to pick up information from company wireless networks by simply driving around the streets of London.

 

The third round of WLAN research commissioned by RSA Security reveals that the number of wireless networks deployed in businesses across London continues to grow rapidly, with a 235% increase in the past year. The total number of wireless access points has also risen from 328 in 2002 to 1078 in 2003 (229% growth). Security has dramatically improved with only 34% of access points lacking WEP encryption, compared to 63% in 2002. Of these 34%, another 19% (70) employ strong Virtual Private Network (VPN) protection and researchers believe many other access points could have had MAC Address Screening or other undetectable security methods.

 

"These results reinforce RSA Security's vision to increase the understanding of security risks in the wired and wireless world," commented Tim Pickard, strategic marketing director EMEA. "We have seen the security debate gather pace over recent years and best practice has been elevated as a topic to CxO level. To be able to send a positive message back to businesses that their IT investment in wireless is delivering on expectations, due to improved security techniques, is an encouraging trend."

 

"We have seen the security debate gather pace over recent years and best practice has been elevated as a topic to CxO level. To be able to send a positive message back to businesses that their IT investment in wireless is delivering on expectations, due to improved security techniques, is an encouraging trend." Tim Pickard, RSA Security

 

Not all Guidelines being met
But the survey also revealed that 25% of access points still do not meet all best practice security guidelines. These businesses are at risk because they are failing to reconfigure network default settings. This allows important network information to be broadcast into the street, providing potential hackers with valuable intelligence to launch an attack.

Phil Cracknell, research author, warned that this indicator could still mean that there were significant wireless network risks to consider in 2004. "The 25% of poorly configured access points suggests that employees and departments could be deploying rogue wireless networks within their business without the knowledge of IT managers. The price of access points has fallen rapidly and can now be bought for as little as 140 a purchase that could easily be made on expenses," commented Cracknell.

 

"The 25% of poorly configured access points suggests that employees and departments could be deploying rogue wireless networks within their business without the knowledge of IT managers. The price of access points has fallen rapidly and can now be bought for as little as 140a purchase that could easily be made on expenses." Phil Cracknell, Research Author

 

Adoption of new specifications puts wireless at the heart of business
In the secure networks, evidence was also found of the rapid adoption of the new 802.11g wireless network specificationthe latest interoperable standard to deliver improved security, additional speed and stability to wireless networks. Phil Cracknell added: "The number of systems incorporating both 802.11b and 802.11g on the same network reinforces the fact that wireless networks are being implemented at the heart of IT infrastructures. By embracing new wireless standards and creating a clear migration path, businesses are cementing the future of WLANs, especially as second-generation installations are occurring only three years after its initial introduction."

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