Newbie questions about wireless security.

Depends on your level of paranoia, the wireless devices you use, and what's on your network.. Personally, I don't have much to worry about, I'm in a vehicle (RV), have wireless PDA's that don't do WPA (and are problematical with WEP), keep private data on a netdisk unavalable to wireless users, and turn off the broadcast SSID.

Reply to
Peter Pan
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Correct. However, since setting up encryption is not at all difficult (with WPA, you just have to enter an easy to remember passphrase once on each device), there is probably no reason not to. Also, just because you cannot connect to your access point from a certain distance away does not mean that other people cannot.


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Yves Konigshofer

I agree with the encryption. You should definitely use it. If you don't want to use it then thats fine. People can sniff the data packets flowing through the air. However, just remember that if you are surfing to a https site wirelessly without encryption, you still have the https protecting you. I'm paranoid of this stuff, so I use WEP encryption, MAC filter, limit the IP address, and disable broadcasting. If you don't want to use encryption, just disable the broadcasting or enable MAC filtering, so it slows down someone from just connecting directly to your network. Hope this help!

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You're correct. All wireless "security" does is prevent someone from using your wireless bandwidth. Whether that matters is a matter of philosophy.

It seems to be an almost kneejerk reaction to recommend turning on encryption without citing any reason. I think it important to ask some questions before reflexively slapping on the security.

Do you care if someone uses your unused Internet bandwidth?

If so, why? It doesn't cost you anything.

Do you have anything in your computer that you need to keep secret?

If so, have you taken steps to secure it from wired Internet intruders?

The questions are important because the various encryption schemes have costs of their own. Encryption slows the link slightly and makes a laptop use slightly more power. That's minor compared to the human overhead required to keep the wireless network running, especially if you share it with guests. Most of the compatibility problems you read about here and in other forums stem from encryption incompatibilities.

Lest you think that the paranoia on display in this group is widespread, consider this. Over the Christmas holidays I took an approx 1500 mile wardrive/vacation in a big loop down one side of Florida and up the other in my motorhome. The laptop was on the whole time and NetStumbler was running.

I was absolutely amazed at the level of WiFi deployment. In the more populated areas I get at least 100 hotspot hits per mile, sometimes dramatically more. Even in the rural areas, one or two per mile were not unusual. I'd guestimate that no more than 2% of those hotspots were secured in any way. I could fetch email at almost any spot along the way. All these thousands and thousands of hotspots are operating fully open without the world coming to an end.

I'm a strong advocate of an open Internet. In the good old days before the net was commercialized, one could find open dialup modems all over the country. Most universities had them. Some were secured and some weren't. When I traveled I could almost always get on the net, though sometimes it required a long distance call. That was very nice. No hassles with remembering a zillion passwords or maintaining proprietary security software. Oh sure, there were some bad children but they were few and far between.

I'd like to see WiFi progress in the same direction. There are terabits of idle broadband bandwidth just sitting there going to waste. It costs the subscriber nothing to let others use what he isn't. Bandwidth truly is a "use it or lose it" affair. The world will be a much nicer place when we can have WiFi connectivity almost everywhere.

Another datapoint. I'm in the restaurant biz and offer free hot spot service. I was recently talking to another restaurant owner, one who has offered free wireless ever since the first Apple Airport became available. She told me that they've NEVER had any misuse of the connection.

My philosophy is, don't fix something that ain't broken and don't waste time addressing a problem until it is evident that there really is a problem.


Reply to
Neon John

WEP and WPA encryption; that is to prevent someone from within the physical range of your wireless signal from joining your network, correct? It does not provide any added internet security. Is there a good reason to go through the trouble of setting it up, if there are no homes or roads within physical range of your wireless network?

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I guess not unless you think some wanderer with a wireless enabled laptop may happen to pass by with his hotspot detector :). Encryption is no trouble to set up though, just a tick box and a password, it's the performance hit that's more concerning but I think that's a negligible percentage anyway.

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