Tuesday, 22 April 2008

What Kind Of WiFi Are You?

On a recent afternoon I got to have a bit of a revelation.

Turns out I'm the sneaky kind of WiFi. The kind that has the SSID turned on saying "come and get me!" - and then some kind of third party security after the access point. In my case, a remote access server that need authentication and is on a two network addresses, one for the WiFi one for the LAN. It's a dead simple thing that prevents anyone casually sniffing around the machines at home, and all runs on one PC along with a heap of other functions so the only thing it cost me was a second network card.

And I'm in a minority, at least in Perth anyway.

We drove home from an afternoon out, down the freeway, through Perth, and then snuck into South Perth/Como. I had my laptop with me and thought a quick snoop of the ether would be appropriate. (I still haven't had time to install netstumbler on it so it was just the Windows wireless networking, but that was enough for my rough survey.)

Of the CBD as we flashed past at freeway speed, about 30 signals popped up on the WiFi (without any external antenna or anything) and of those, five appeared to be deliberately left open (metromesh, cafe access points, etc) and only about seven of the remainder were secured.

So about 70% of businesses near the freeway are operating in fully open mode, unless, like me, they have a sneaky routing box behind the access point. I didn't bother to actually log onto each one as I literally had two minutes to take note of the number of acess points as we zipped past, no time to find out if there were open LANs behind the access points.

But it shows that something seems to be not getting through, a lot of basic security is being overlooked.

About three years ago, a WiFi survey I did along St Georges/Adelaide Tce revealed about 50 access points, and that number is bound to have increased by now. If numbers have doubled in three years as they are likely to have, then that means there would be about 60 - 70 open access points on networks just along one main street of the CBD.

What's even more scary is that on the drive through the residential Como - Bentley - Parkwood areas, I noticed about another 60 access points, the majority of which appear to be privately operated home systems - and 90% of those are secured.

That means that businesses in Perth are far less secure than people at home. A bonanza for black hat hackers, definitely. I'm hoping a few businesses or their IT managers read this and then contact me to lock down access, because that was quite frankly an eye-opener for me.

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