Wireless Security: Lock Your Wireless Connection Like Your Front Door
February 1, 2011 | By Damon Armour, IT Security Officer, contributing writer
Wireless access continues to grow every day. Increasingly, individuals are relying on their smart phones to tell them where to go, to keep their shopping lists, and to balance their budgets. With all this information flowing freely in the air, individuals need to take precautions to ensure their information is transmitted securely. Try to think of securing your wireless connection like locking your front door.
Last month, ITS introduced the new wireless access options at Augusta State University. These include the open wireless (WAASU) and the new secure wireless (WAASU (Secure)). WAASU (Secure) provides security to prevent eavesdropping on your connections. For more details on ASU’s new wireless networks, take a look at last month’s ASU Report ITS article: www.asupr.com/asureport/2011/01/updated-waasu-wireless-access-at-asu/.
Individuals need to request a secure wireless connection when on the go (e.g., at public restaurants, hotels, and bookstores). As the demand grows in the public, individuals need to ensure they are protecting their wireless connections at home. OnGuard (www.onguardonline.gov), a cyber-security website managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has a listing of quick tips that every user should follow. Follow the detailed instructions provided by your wireless device manufacturer to accomplish these tips:
• Use encryption to scramble communications over the network. If you have a choice, WiFi Protected Access (especially WPA2) is stronger than Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).
• Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as a firewall.
• Most wireless routers have a mechanism called identifier broadcasting. Turn it off so your computer won’t send a signal to any device in the vicinity announcing its presence.
• Change the identifier on your router from the default so a hacker can't use the manufacturer's default identifier to try to access your network.
• Change your router’s pre-set administration password to one only you know. The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack.
• Allow only specific computers to access your wireless network.
• Turn off your wireless network when you know you won’t use it.
• Don’t assume that public “hot spots” are secure. Assume that other people can access any information you see or send over a public wireless network.
Securing your wireless is equally important in rooms at University Village. There have been many cases where peer-to-peer (P2P) incidents have taken place at University Village for a students who had not secured their wireless router and its connections. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the copyright holder may obtain a subpoena requesting that the university disclose the student’s identity. The university must comply with a valid subpoena, and the copyright holder may then choose to take legal action against the student. If a student needs assistance in securing a wireless network, he or she should contact the ITS Student Help Desk (706-737-1676). Help Desk team members can help students securely manage wireless devices and encrypt data to safeguard transmissions.
Wireless will continue to grow as individuals demand more information on the go. Many of the wireless phone carriers have touted their next generation data networks, which can handle more of the growing demand. The key to avoiding any breach of information is to be cautious of the activities an individual performs on a wireless connection whose security is unknown. If you’re at a sandwich shop surfing the web and do not know whether security is enabled, avoid working with any sensitive information such as online banking.
If you have any questions about the campus’s wireless network and its security, contact the ITS Help Desk at 706-737-1482.
OnGuard Online: www.onguardonline.gov/topics/wireless-security.aspx/.