War Driving No Game to IT Managers - Page 2

By Sharon Gaudin | Posted Nov 26, 2003
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"From a company standpoint, the fear is that anybody could come in through a wireless access point and connect into the corporate LAN," says Ken VanWyk, founder and principal consultant with KRvW Associates, LLC, an Alexandria, Va.-based IT security consulting firm. "Think of it like it's crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. If somebody can completely bypass the firewall you've put up, then in most cases, it's very easy to get access to internal servers."

"Once they're in, it's just like they've plugged into a network from a conference room or a person's office," adds VanWyk. "That means they're free to browse through the network looking for misconfigured servers and security weaknesses."

VanWyk makes the point that any executive who wouldn't want a business rival to waltz into his boardroom and plug a laptop into his network should make sure his wireless access points are secured.

But as is the case with most new technologies, many companies are far more concerned with staying current and getting the new gadgets hooked up. They figure they'll worry about security later. Or it could be a matter of the budget having room for new wireless technology but not having room this year for the necessary security to go along with it.

Danger of Rogue Connections

Another problem, according to Rick Doten, director of vulnerability assessment at Herndon, Va.-based NetSec, Inc., is when the IT manager or security administrator doesn't even know there's an unsecured wireless connection coming into the company — aka a rogue connection.

"People can go to Best Buy and get an access point for under $100," says Doten, who adds that he's found them hidden under desks and in filing cabinets. "These are internal people who aren't trying to be malicious; they simply want the convenience of having a wireless access point, but they're creating an open door. The IT department doesn't even know it exists, so how can they fix it?"

NetStumbler, one of the many wireless network detection tools out there, can be used to audit a corporate network, clueing IT managers in to whether or not they have open access points.

NetStumbler's Slavin says it's a tool for the good guys, and most analysts agree. But there is the fact that any access point detection tool could be used by someone looking for a way to break into a corporate network, either to cause mischief or to destroy data or steal information. Obviously, it's not the tool, but the way it's used.

And an unsecured Wi-Fi network is an open invitation to corporate spies or high-tech thieves.

Slavin notes that detection tools give IT managers the information they need to correct access problems before the company suffers because of it.

"War drivers are not the bad guys," says Slavin, who notes that there have been 5 million downloads of NetStumbler. "They're contributing to the wireless community ... Of course, how it's used is a concern. But I think the positives that have been had because of NetStumbler outweigh any of the negatives. More networks have been secured than compromised by any tool out there."

Feature courtesy of Wi-Fi Planet.

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