March 8, 2011

Wireless Internet Security

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 8:07 pm

By: Philip Steinke

Wireless internet has been around for a while. Almost everywhere you go now, you are able to connect to the internet. Most of the time it is harder to find a place to charge your laptop than it is to connect to the internet. I bet a large majority of the people reading this blog happen to be on some form of wireless internet right now. Those of you whom are connected to a wireless network might be unaware of the potential dangers connected with wireless internet. The biggest of these dangers occur at public sources known as hot-spots. Although they are more common on public hot-spots, these dangers also exist on networks which require a username and password.

There a few areas of danger. These can be broken down into the risks produced by your own computer, and the risks brought to the network by other computers. I will be discussing the one which is out of your control, the risks brought to the network by other computers. These risks can be transferred to our computers if the network we are using is poorly secured. While I was researching this subject, I found a very useful article in the library database at the University of Cincinnati. There is a link to this article here. The statistics used in this blog are taken from this site.

Most wireless networks (around 60%) use no form of encryption. This means that the data being transferred on the network is not protected in any way. And of the networks that do, 75% are using wired equivalent privacy (WEP), which has several well-documented security deficiencies. (There is more information about WEP and its problems on this page under the section “Wi-Fi Security Standards.”) WEP was developed in 1999 at the start of the Wi-Fi boom. It was quickly found to have many flaws and is currently very outdated. Cracking WEP packets takes a matter of seconds. So, even though as network may have security in place, the security may be practically useless.

Let’s say the network you are using is secure. This lowers the risk other computers outside the network stealing information. However, if your own computer is poorly secured, there are still risks from other computers on the same network. The article I found in the database is about a study in which a university wireless network was studied. Around 12% of the computers which connected to the network had significant security flaws.  Many of the computers also had detectable malware.

There is an interesting chart in the article which shows the different malware detected.

Many of these are designed to give somebody remote access to your computer and control it. Malware is designed to spread so that multiple computers can be taken control of at once. Once the malware spreads to multiple computers, they can be used as a group to launch a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. These types of cyber-attacks are becoming more common. (Information on DoS attacks can be found here)

Receiving malware from other computers can be prevented by having a good anti-virus program installed and in proper working condition. If you do not update your security programs often, I recommend doing so. If you do not an anti-virus, there are multiple free ones available. Get One! (There is one available for UC students here)


  1. Jon Ahrens
    This blog accuratly states the dangers and problems with wireless security. I feel that the author did a great job describing his topic and backing it up with great information. I think there are a lot of source material links which I feel slows the flow the paper has. Instead of describing each link with a new sentence or putting it in parathases, it should be addressed at the end of a sentence or paragraph. I think you did a great job giving enough source material though. Everything you stated can be backed up by the sites and material you gave. I also really like the fact that you put secruity software in the paper as well. So instead of just reading it and not knowing what to do, the reader can actually follow your suggestions and download software instantly. I think this post does a great job describing wireless internet secruity, now I am wondering about lan line secruity!

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  2. With the expanding use of the internet and Wi-Fi, this is a serious concern. However, I began to wonder if the simple issue of unsecured networks is actually as big of a problem as we say it is. Can people actually view files, passwords, and history? Because if not, I feel like a simple anti-virus program would solve the entire dilemma. Many people who are accessing Wi-Fi from these hop spots are only there for a brief time. None the less this is still and issue. One thing I could suggest to the problem is that companies who provide a free internet service should require a password. This password would be available in an easily accessible location like a front desk or cash register. However, even if these hot spots required passwords, hackers could simply walk up and get the password. I think the real question comes down to whether or not people are that concerned with security of hot spots. The intended purpose is for quick and simple use. By placing restrictions on them we have just ruined their purpose. However, I think the best way to solve this problem is public awareness. By informing people of the dangers of public internet they can take the steps to better protecting their information and computer. It may be as simple as downloading an anti-virus software. However, if we were to change the requirements for public Wi-Fi and hot spots, I feel like this would almost make them unnecessary. I also feel like this would cause frustration with the people who are frequent users.

    Andrew Henderson

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 10:37 am | Reply

  3. -Hilario Cabrera

    it is true that wi-gi hot spots are pretty much found everywhere now, and it is also true that we have very little control over the security offered by those wi-fi providers. that is why we should not just connect to any open wifi provider without knowing who it belongs to or what the terms of using it are. for example if you go to a McDonald or any restaurant that offers free wifi you could assume you are perfectly fine and protected since its a big company and they should have good security, but the article is correct because we dont know who all is connected using that same hot spot and what they could do to us through it. besides the other users the “free wifi connections” ask you to agree to certain terms and conditions which most of us just ignore and agree right away in order to use the internet, but the owner of the connection can see who is connected at what time and what they are looking at as well. so we dont have much privacy either. they could also kick us out as they wish. so who says they cant just develop a software to have access to our computers and see our files and such, which is possible and is being done as well. thats why is important we dont trust anybody we are not sure about, only reliable sources should be used and avoid using unknown hot spots if you are worried about your security

    Comment by Hilario Cabrera — March 9, 2011 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  4. – Ben Fortkamp
    I am glad that this article was posted because I really would not be aware of this if it was not for this article. It surprises me how many ways a person can get on a network. When it was described that a person could get access of a secure network by going through another person’s computer who does have access, I was shocked. It just seems to me that no matter what measures are taken to have wireless internet secured someone is always going to find a way around it. And this statement is true in more ways than just this situation. However, I am glad to see that some measures are being taken to at least try and stop malware and other harmful devices from gaining access to internet networks. I think that if people are able to keep their personal computers protected at a high standard and wireless networks do that same, then hopefully most harmful devices will not be able to breach the system and less harm will be done.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

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