Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

8/14/2008
04:18 AM
50%
50%

Is Wireless Really Worth It?

Wireless technology may be convenient, but it also introduces significant hassles - and risks

Wireless networks are ubiquitous these days. We are all, for better or worse, being bombarded by radio waves in all sorts of frequency ranges, and if we could put a 2.4GHz monitor in our heads, we’d be overloaded by the sheer volume of traffic screaming around on wireless networks using that frequency.

Despite the phenomenal security and reliability issues with it, users ranging from my parents to Fortune 100 companies are using it. What has driven the move from wired Ethernet to WiFi?

Clearly, convenience is part of it. Outside the enterprise, there is no doubt that this convenience is worth it, at least from my standpoint. Recently, I relocated from Cambodia to Santiago, Chile, where things such as acquiring Internet service can take weeks. Many businesses here provide free WiFi to customers, providing a valuable service for many and giving themselves a competitive advantage. I don’t really want to think about how much time I have spent at Starbucks for their magic combo – caffeine, no smoking, and free WiFi.

In the home, the case gets weaker. While staying in a temporary apartment during my move, I could see roughly 15 networks at any given time, of varying signal strength. Almost all of those were protected with either WEP or WAP, and I have to confess that I was sorely tempted to just “borrow” one of those connections with the help of Airsnort and friends.

Now that I've moved to a house, I only have two networks visible, one for each neighbor. Again, they are protected networks. But how many places do those people really use their computers? Is it worth it to them to deal with the hassle of setup, the knowledge that the wireless router will crash, and the interference with cordless phones and other wireless devices in the home?

Mache Creeger did a piece on this in ACM Queue, and I have to confess that I was nearly convinced. "Nearly" because I move so much and seldom live someplace that I own. If I had a more permanent home, I would certainly think twice about the utility of wireless versus a proper wired infrastructure.

Inside the enterprise, the case for wireless is even less clear. For the legitimate user, it's fantastic to be able to open a laptop anywhere in a building and know that, given the proper password, full access to the network will be available within seconds. No more worries about how many network drops a conference room has or how many people will need access, and no more cables draped over the edges of tables and running to the walls.

But what are the costs? Well, for one, managing a large wireless infrastructure is far from free, and the number of access points needed to provide good coverage throughout a large building is decidedly non-trivial. Then there will be dead zones and annoyed people that go along with them. “I can check my email in the bathroom!” is certainly not a phrase I long to hear in my life.

Add these to the security headaches of keeping synchronized encryption keys on all the devices, changing them regularly to limit the damage from compromise, trying to limit the network to the office’s perimeter, and adding the secondary access control mechanisms to prevent anyone with Airsnort from getting the run of the show, and the costs seem pretty high. The wireless network taxes not just the IT infrastructure, but the security group as well.

There are certainly products out there that provide reasonable control security for these networks, but it seems to me that the cost – both initial and ongoing – must be hard to justify. If you have experiences to share on either side of the wireless security argument, please post a reply to the message board attached to this column.

— Nathan Spande has implemented security in medical systems during the dotcom boom and bust and suffered through federal government security implementations. Special to Dark Reading

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/9/2020
Russian Cyber Gang 'Cosmic Lynx' Focuses on Email Fraud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/7/2020
Why Cybersecurity's Silence Matters to Black Lives
Tiffany Ricks, CEO, HacWare,  7/8/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15105
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Django Two-Factor Authentication before 1.12, stores the user's password in clear text in the user session (base64-encoded). The password is stored in the session when the user submits their username and password, and is removed once they complete authentication by entering a two-factor authenticati...
CVE-2020-11061
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
In Bareos Director less than or equal to 16.2.10, 17.2.9, 18.2.8, and 19.2.7, a heap overflow allows a malicious client to corrupt the director's memory via oversized digest strings sent during initialization of a verify job. Disabling verify jobs mitigates the problem. This issue is also patched in...
CVE-2020-4042
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Bareos before version 19.2.8 and earlier allows a malicious client to communicate with the director without knowledge of the shared secret if the director allows client initiated connection and connects to the client itself. The malicious client can replay the Bareos director's cram-md5 challenge to...
CVE-2020-11081
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
osquery before version 4.4.0 enables a priviledge escalation vulnerability. If a Window system is configured with a PATH that contains a user-writable directory then a local user may write a zlib1.dll DLL, which osquery will attempt to load. Since osquery runs with elevated privileges this enables l...
CVE-2020-6114
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
An exploitable SQL injection vulnerability exists in the Admin Reports functionality of Glacies IceHRM v26.6.0.OS (Commit bb274de1751ffb9d09482fd2538f9950a94c510a) . A specially crafted HTTP request can cause SQL injection. An attacker can make an authenticated HTTP request to trigger this vulnerabi...