It seems odd writing anything about wireless. Wireless technology is so yesterday, vanilla, not sexy at all. However, the fact that it is common and it’s everywhere makes it all the more important that we talk about it.
Security – We love it and we hate it.
Let’s face it, we all know we want and need security in place. At the same time most people would admit that we also hate the inconvenience that comes with security. Who likes changing their network password every so often? Isn’t that why we always see posted notes with password written on them in not so discrete places – under the keyboard, on the monitor, on the cork board, etc.?
The same is true with wireless networks, people want an easy and convenient way to connect to one. We want those who are visiting our office or home to be able to connect without hassle. we don’t want our guests to sit and wait for while the IT person connects a laptop or tablet or phone to the wireless network. However, we all want our network to be secured.
How vulnerable are we?
Most people are not really techies anyway, so why would we need to worry about people breaking into our network? Afterall the servers are protected, right? Maybe, but the fact is there are free tools- complete with instructions on how to use them- available to the public that can be used to break into a wireless network. A typical wireless network protected by a WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) key can be compromised within 2-5 minutes. A more secured wireless network, with a WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2) key, can generally be compromised within 2 hours or so.
But I don’t have anything that anyone wants, so what’s the big deal? We’ll skip all the reasons why and focus on the simplest example. The reason, the simplest thing is what most people overlook. One thing that everyone want these days is a free Internet connection. Why does this matter? Even if everything else is secured, it’s possible that unwanted access to our Internet connection can impact our life e.g. heavy usage by an unauthorized user can significantly bog down the Internet connection.
Ah, but what if we are smart enough to control the wireless network and only allow a certain amount of bandwidth? Well, these days there are plenty of people illegally downloading and sharing data e.g. movie, music, software, etc. We might think that such activity will not affect us, until suddenly we receive a notice of copyright infringement from the Internet Service Provider and/or the Recording Industry Association of America.
Security solution is a spectrum. Find a good balance between security, convenience, and common sense. Just like the way we secure our house. We don’t want to secure it to the point that we cannot easily come and go, but at the same some we don’t want to be to lax about it either. In thinking about security, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and impacts (direct and indirect); from there we can then decide the security goals.
The Information Security world often focuses on three different attributes: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability – often referred to as the CIA Triad. We can use these attributes as lenses to assess our network security.