Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wireless Safety

Wireless technology is now built into just about every gadget we’re likely to own – from mobile phones, PDA’s and laptops through to iPods, cameras and book readers. It is a functionality which is less a feature than a consumer requirement.
Always being connected especially when you’re on the move, can seem like a wonderful thing. You can surf the internet, write and pick up emails, download important files – everything you can do in the office or at home – wherever and whenever you wish. But all this comes at a price. The price is the security of your data.

Wireless communications offer a window of opportunity for the data thief

Mobile phones, PDA’s and laptops now come with two wireless technologies as standard: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Many people forget to turn this functionality off on their mobile and laptops when they are not in use. Mobile phones in particular are often switched on permanently because users don’t think to check. As a result their presence is advertised to other wireless users 300 feet away or more. Since the signals are always seeking connections they are easily discovered and unless properly secured, can be hacked in a matter of minutes.

Securing mobile Wi-Fi- computers

There is one very simple wireless security solution; turn if off if you are not using it. With most laptops, all it takes is a flick of a switch. Wi-Fi signals travel further then Bluetooth signals and this should be borne in mind especially in heavily populated areas.

One of the main risks with mobile Wi-Fi is that it can be configured to automatically connect to available networks. This puts your computer at risk as it may hop on to any free hotspot without notifying the user. All the potential hacker then needs is some free software, readily available on the internet, to steal passwords, contacts and other personal or confidential data.

Wi-Fi on the move- phones

The main security risk with mobile phones is Bluetooth.
Bluetooth transmissions work up to about 30 feet or more. Again in a public place this can advertise your presence and the fact that your device can be connected to and either hacked or hijacked.

Hijacking is a favourite ploy of many fraudsters. They can steal a mobile number silently and with great simplicity then use it to dial premium numbers for services which would be difficult to explain to a person’s spouse or partner. The resulting bill can be an equal embarrassment, with no way of proving to the service provider that it wasn’t the subscriber making the calls. The best way of staying secure is to switch Bluetooth off by going into the phone settings and disabling it.

Wi-Fi at home

Home wireless networks have a range of around 300ft indoors and 300ft or more outdoors, depending on a number of factors, including the strength of the transmitter and the number and type of obstructions in the way of the signal.
‘War driving’ is a common tactic used by fraudsters who drive around residential areas to identify and exploit weak home wireless networks for their own gain.
An easy way of making a wireless network more secure is to place the transmitter near the centre of the home, away from windows .Modern wireless networks come with certain security features built in eg. Firewall; The ability to encrypt traffic. These features should be enabled at set up.

How to protect yourself:


  • Disable automatic connection on your computer to Wi-Fi networks.
  • Turn Wi-Fi off on your computer when it’s not in use
  • Turn the Bluetooth signal to ‘undiscoverable’ on your mobile phone when it is not in use.
  • Set a Bluetooth pass code on your mobile phone and change it frequently
  • Enable security features built into your wireless networks such as firewalls and encryption
  • Change the administrator name and password on your home wireless network
  • Change the default SSID (Secure Set Identifier) name at set up and disable broadcast.

  • Use the default settings on your wireless devices – the defaults are well known to hackers
  • Choose an obvious profile for your mobile phone
  • Pair your mobile phone with any Bluetooth enables devise that you do not recognise
  • Use default pass code settings, names or passwords on your mobile phone or wireless networks
  • Do not leave your home wireless networks turned on if you go away for any length of time.

Adapted from Fraud Facts, Wireless safety; Fraud Advisory Panel

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