What's all the fuss about security?

Configuration and operational information about stumbled AP's

What's all the fuss about security?

Postby sysadmn » Fri Jan 24, 2003 12:24 pm

I found this excellent overview on wireless security in a daily news Summary called NewsScan http://www.newsscan.com/newsscan/aacs/ written by John Gehl & Suzanne Douglas. I wrote the authors and received permission to reproduce it here:

       Security experts Chey and Stephen Cobb write:

       For many computer users, wireless networks are the greatest thing
since sliced bread. No longer are you tied to a desk; you can compute and
browse from the comfort of your living room, your bed, or even while you
cook dinner. The ease with which most wireless access points install is
astounding, too. No wonder wireless networking has become so hot so quick.
There's only one problem: by default, most wireless installations offer no
security. None. Nil. Zilch. This means that your next door neighbor or the
business in the next office can surf for free off your connection and can
probably access some of your hard drives as well. The good news is that
this can be fixed. The bad news is that you'll definitely need the user
manual as not all wireless access points are the same.

       The first thing you'll have to do is to turn off the SSID
"broadcasts." The SSID is the Service Set Identifier, otherwise known as
the name of the network. By default this name is continually shouted over
the airwaves and anyone with a wireless card in their laptop can walk by
your office and pick up this broadcast. The default names of the SSIDs are
also generally known, so this makes it easier for people to hop on to your
network. If you think we're kidding, just visit
<a href=http://www.pasadena.net/apmap>http://www.pasadena.net/apmap</a> - for maps of Southern California showing
over 1,500 available wireless networks.

       The next thing you need to do is to change the default SSID name. For
example, the default SSID for Linksys wireless access points is "linksys"
(as though all the imagination was expended on product design, before the
time came to choose a name). The new name should be meaningful to you, but
not to the potential hacker as they will frequently try to guess names of
networks. Frequently used names are "accounting," the business name, or the
street address. Remember that you're only obscuring your network from
casual viewers right now. You haven't actually done anything to prevent
them from finding you and hopping on.

       Your next task is to change the default password for maintenance and
changes to the wireless access point. Again, the default passwords are
widely known in the hacking community and many wireless users to forget
this simple change. It's of no use to make other security changes to your
wireless network if someone else can simply use an unchanged default
password to change everything back to the way it was.

       After you've changed the password to something strong and
unguessable, you'll want to turn off "remote management" if your system
allows it. Frequently the wireless access points will have a Web interface
that allows you to log on to the access point from outside of your network.
This is set by default for ease of maintenance and a big security
vulnerability, but turning off remote management will mean you can only
make changes to the access point from inside your own network.

       The most difficult task is really not all that difficult, enabling
WEP: Wired Equivalent Privacy. This is a weak encryption scheme that
scrambles the data passing over the network. It's not perfect by any means,
but as long as you're aware that it is not perfect, it's much better than
nothing. You'll definitely need your user's manual for this change. The
vendors all have different methods of enabling WEP and you'll want to make
sure you're doing it correctly. You'll need to either enter a passphrase
that will generate a shared key or the keys will be already coded for you.
Remember the passphrase because you may need it later.

       You'll also want to make WEP "required" for all connections, too.
Just because you've enabled it doesn't mean that everyone will need to use
it yet. After you've made WEP required, you'll have to go around to all the
machines using the wireless connection to make sure that they are WEP
enabled. If you have Windows XP, the job is made simpler by using their
Wireless Connection Manager.

       Part of the problem with wireless security is that the authentication
required to get on to the network is very weak. There are a couple of ways
to strengthen this weakness.

       By filtering on the MAC (Media Access Control) addresses of your
computers, you can restrict access to only the MAC addresses you've listed.
The MAC address is a unique number associated with the network card and, if
you have a small network, it's an easy way to keep outsiders out. You
simply enter all the MAC addresses of the computers on your network into
the appropriate area of your wireless access point. Again, you'll need your
manual to find out how to make these changes. You'll also need to keep the
list up to date when you change or add computers. MAC addresses can be
spoofed, so this measure isn't foolproof, but it is effective against
casual hacks.

       If you have a large network, keeping track of MAC addresses might be
judged too cumbersome. In that case you may want to upgrade your wireless
access points and cards to use EAP, or Enhanced Authentication Protocol.
Enabling this will require more work and sophistication on your part
because you'll have to have a strong authentication scheme to go along with
it. You'll need a server that can handle digital certificates and/or
security tokens for authentication. In addition, you'll need to upgrade all
the wireless cards to make sure they can handle EAP. This is one protocol
that's not backwards compatible and older wireless network cards may not
work. All of this represents an outlay of some capital to implement so you
should have a serious commitment to it before you begin.

       More serious security solutions for wireless networks are coming, and
we may even some security included in the default settings before long!
Until then, you're on your own, so it's up to you to do the best you can.

       [Chey Cobb, the author of Network Security for Dummies, is an
independent consultant (http://www.cheycobb.com) and a former senior technical
security advisor to the NRO. Her email address, <a href=mailto:chey@patriot.net>chey@patriot.net</a>, is
heavily spam-filtered. Stephen Cobb, the author of Privacy for Business:
Web Sites and Email, is Senior VP of Research and Education for ePrivacy
Group (http://www.eprivacygroup.com). He can be reached at <a href=mailto:scobb@cobb.com>scobb@cobb.com</a>.]
Wigle Stats:
Total New Discovered Networks with GPS: 996
All Networks Recorded: 1,517
Networks This Month with GPS: 850
First Post: 26-Dec-2004
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Location: in front of the computer, duh!

Postby c0nv3r9 » Sat Jan 25, 2003 3:04 pm

Is it just me... or is it saying that incompetency and impatience are two really good arguments why securing wifi doesn't matter?

Sound like an article aimed at a typical hapless admin that doesn't do their job anyway and needs a bad excuse to get out of it...

" I'm sorry sir, I would have used MAC filtering, but that would have required maintaining a list of network addresses.. and that would have taken away from precious time doing.. important things for this company! "
He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.
-- Nahum 2:5, The Holy Bible, KJV
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Postby sysadmn » Mon Jan 27, 2003 5:51 am

I don't think the article implies securing wi-fi doesn't matter. Consider the audience. It's not aimed at networking professionals - they should know this already. I see this aimed more at the SOHO & hobbiest crowd. Now that prices have fallen, wi-fi is an impulse buy - $100 for a home network, or to start an office network. I can easily see the boss in a small offfice going to 'the computer guy' and telling him to get the boss' laptop a wireless card. And that's the camel's nose in the tent - pretty soon the supervisor wants wireless, and the sales people have laptops and cards are only $49.95 so they might as well ...
Since 'the computer guy' in a small office is rarely full-time, he or she might not know or care anything about wireless security.

Overall, I posted this because I thought it was a good reference for beginners who didn't know or care about security. It's not a detailed, in-depth howto, but rather a top-level outline of the steps to take, and why they are important. It's the sort of thing I email friends and relatives when they mention they just bought a wireless router.
Wigle Stats:
Total New Discovered Networks with GPS: 996
All Networks Recorded: 1,517
Networks This Month with GPS: 850
First Post: 26-Dec-2004
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 8:37 am
Location: in front of the computer, duh!

"Whats the fuss about security"

Postby rscarb99 » Thu Feb 13, 2003 5:26 am

I think you hit the nail on the head. This article is aimed at SOHO audiences. While I am a network security specialist I clearly see the vulnerabilities of "unsecured" access points, some readers reading this thread will not quite "get" what you are saying.
I cannot stress enough that security on access points is not an option but should be taken more seriously as a mandatory solution once the access point is installed either in a residential or commercial environment.
I would like to see more literature for non-network people on the potential pitfalls of running wide open on their access points.
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Postby Titanium » Sun Feb 16, 2003 4:03 am

Originally posted by sysadmn

Since 'the computer guy' in a small office is rarely full-time, he or she might not know or care anything about wireless security.

Our IT guy at work is rarely there. I mentioned something about the wireless network not being WEP (I could stumble on it a pretty good distance away). He just said "yeah, I guess I should do something about that. Let me know if you see some guy sitting in his car by the building typing on a laptop". They still haven't protected it.
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