SF Gate article
March 22, 2001 5:19 PM   Subscribe

SF Gate article states, "with a wireless ethernet card, a laptop and some basic software savvy," people walking around downtown San Francisco could just point their antenna at a building and be privy to private, unprotected coporate networks.
posted by paladin (9 comments total)
Ugh. What a pointless article.

Anyone with the necessary knowledge to build a network could (and should) figure out how to enable a password on their 802.11b network, and add encryption (at least 40-bit, but 128-bit isn't much more difficult to setup). All the ones I've worked with had a simple GUI that allowed for this.

If you walk by the wireless lan running at my home, you can't get on without a long and impossible to remember password, and all my passwords and network packets are 40-bit encrypted, so it'll look like garbage to anyone sniffing the traffic.

If you're dumb enough to setup a 802.11 network and you leave the password clear, and turn off encryption, you deserve to get hacked. It's trivial to add those protections and stupid to ignore them.
posted by mathowie at 5:37 PM on March 22, 2001

Hm. The article says, "We walked around the Financial District with a laptop and an antenna, and we could pick up about six networks per block." If it really is that simple, what does that say about all these places that didn't put up any protection? I think the point is that these basic security measures seem not to have been done at all, in many places.
posted by paladin at 8:19 PM on March 22, 2001

I am partially with Matt on this one, but I have been witnessing some amazing gaffs of late. What ever happened to pride in your work or even the ability to say I need to take some time to do this right, as I don't understand everything I should to do this properly.
posted by vanderwal at 10:37 PM on March 22, 2001

It's crazy the more I think about it. I'm pretty sure the Apple Airport I setup out of the box had a default password, and 40-bit encryption was turned on. If neither was true, it was simply clicking two checkboxes in a GUI to add both.
posted by mathowie at 10:41 PM on March 22, 2001

It *can* be that easy but it doesn't have to be. Yes, 802.11b comes with various security measures, but they're all a little painful to deal with and even the encryption system has been cracked. On top of being ungainly, it's also just kind of silly - it's not like most apps where you can give each user their own userid and password - there's a single shared key and everyone who uses the network has to know it.

On the other hand, this capability does have its advantages wrt getting things set up quickly and easily. When we set up AirWave we based the network on this premise - you can just walk in and pick up the local open network and you're on the AirWave network (at which point it uses SSL to handle your login and make sure you're authorized to use the network, set up an account, etc.) No client, no shared passwords that we have to distribute - walk into range with a card picking up open networks, open a web browser, and you're set.
posted by faisal at 12:56 AM on March 23, 2001

I wish the Apple were the dominant player and everybody followed their lead. The world would be a better place. A simple user interface that makes it easy for the user to perform whatever function is needed.
posted by vanderwal at 4:45 AM on March 23, 2001

The company I work for has a wireless network setup, and to prevent snooping, the wireless stuff is actually outside the corporate firewall. Employees who wish to access anything inside the firewall have to use VPN to get inside (VPN connections are on a per-machine basis using SecureID cards for authentication, so there is little chance of that being spoofed). A snooper sitting out in the parking lot might be able to get a little free general internet access, but without a VPN installtion on their machine, they will not be able to see anything on the company's internal network.
posted by Potsy at 4:55 AM on March 23, 2001

The other interesting part of that article was people letting others share their wireless for free, as opposed to large corporations walking around unzipped.

That's the free part of wireless that I like. We have to pay $700 to get access to the campus wireless network. Don't ask.
posted by mecran01 at 6:08 AM on March 23, 2001

Hmmm, I never thought about popping in my wireless ethernet card when I'm downtown and without an Internet connection. That's awesome!

So would that make my laptop computer a mobile internet device? The line blurs....
posted by fooljay at 5:48 PM on March 23, 2001

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