Wireless security is at a critical stage, and research has found that of 81,743networks surveyed, around 30 per cent were using either the known-broken Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) algorithm, or no security encryption at all.
In an exercise, James Lyne, global head of security research at Sophos, used wifi scanners on a bicycle in an project named “warbiking” and found that 52 per cent of networks were using WiFi Protected Access (WPA). “Our experiment found a disturbingly large number of people willing to connect to an open wireless network we created, without any idea of who owned it or whether it was trustworthy” said Lyne.
Lyne told IT Security Guru that he had found “thousands of broken networks” on his adventures and wireless security control was “all a mess and we have lost control”.
He said: “If you compare the United States and London, in the past 19 months the number of WEP-enabled routers has halved, but this is something we have known about for ten years and there were over 5,000 using this algorithm in London.
“San Francisco was worse, and there was more legacy technology there than in London. We have open networks by design but some are open and not encrypted. Unless we encrypt it, anyone with a wireless adaptor can pick it up. Use of encryption is much less here than in the US; what we need to teach is that open networks does equal free wifi, but it is also open network and open information.
In the most recent exercise in London, Lyne set up three Wifi accounts to his warbike named “FreePublicWifi”, “Free Internet” and amusingly” “DO NOT CONNECT”. In San Francisco, 1,507 connected to these and in London, 2,907 people connected to them. 27 people connected to the “DO NOT CONNECT” network in San Francisco, and 39 did so in London. In London, Lyne also found that only two per cent used a VPN and 317 used insecure mail protocols.
Lyne continued: “This willingness to connect to any wireless network that professes to offer free wifi, without ensuring you have some kind of security measures in place, is like shouting your personal or company information out of the nearest window and being surprised when someone abuses it. With a few extra command line arguments, it would have been trivial to attack nearly everyone in our study.”