Wireless security is when wireless networks are used to prevent unauthorized access or damage to computers or laptops. Wireless networks are very common these days among both the individuals and organizations as the ability to enter a network while being on the move has many advantages.
However, it has disadvantages too as the hackers or crackers can easily break into wireless network, thus damaging not only the laptop and the information stored in it but also get access to the wired network and cause immense damage to it.
What are possible security risks?
There are many ways in which a hacker can get unauthorized access:
- Accidental Association: This type of unauthorized access is when a user accidentally connects to a wireless access point of another person or a company’s network. Though the user may not be aware about it, the other person or company’s network is exposed to a hacker.
- Malicious Association: Malicious Association is when crackers use wireless devices to gain access to the network of a company, which could lead to stealing of passwords, attacking and damaging the wired network or even launch viruses into the network.
- Non-traditional networks like Bluetooth devices, handheld PDAs, wireless printers and copiers too could be hacked which may damage wired/wireless network when connected to it.
- Identity theft happens when a cracker is able to identify the computer which has network privileges. It can be stopped by using wireless devices which only permit computers with specific MAC IDs to connect to the network.
- Denial of service attack happens when a hacker continuously sends fake requests, failure messages and other commands, preventing legitimate users from connecting to the network and even leading to the crash of the network.
How to counter Security Risks?
Though many technologies have come up which are used to counter network intrusion, there is no single technology or system which is absolutely secure. As a result, it is advisable to ensure that all wireless LAN devices are secure. Also, education among wireless network users about wireless security is a must. It is also essential that all wireless networks are regularly monitored for any kind of breaches.
Some of the ways in which you can secure your wireless network:
- MAC ID Filtering: MAC ID Filtering is advisable to use wireless access points which provide MAC ID filtering that allows computers with a specific MAC IDs only to access the network and bars the rest.
- Disabling Static IP address makes it difficult for a cracker to have access to the network even if he knows the IP address of a particular computer as the computer then becomes a standalone machine and is no longer connected to the network. Enabling dynamic IP address is also a good option as the cracker won’t be able to access the network even if he knows the IP address of the computer with network access because dynamic IP address randomly picks up ID address.
- Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption: Initially developed to make wireless networks as secure as wired networks, WEP comes in different key sizes. The longer the key length the better it is as it would be difficult for crackers to hack it. However, WEP does not provide much security as WPA-PSK encryption. In WEP, a key is developed which is shared by access points and all the clients, thus making it easier for a hacker to crack it as all he has to do is hack the key of one user and he would have access to the data of all users.
- Wi-fi Protected Access (WPA): WPA develops a Pre-shared Key (PSK) to secure the data by using 8 to 64 hexadecimal characters. It is advisable to use strong hexadecimal key containing 64 characters as it would be difficult for the cracker to access the data.
- 802.1X: An IEEE standard which is used for authenticating wireless and wired LAN.
- LEAP or Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol: Based on 802.1X, LEAP helps in reducing security lapses by combining WEP and a key management system.
- PEAP or Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol: It secures data transportation, protects passwords and encryption keys and doesn’t need a certificate server to do all this.
- RADIUS or Remote Authentication Dial in user Service: A great too against hackers, RADIUS has in-built software which verifies the user name and password. It also has the ability to configure the users who can access the data.
- Smart cards, USB tokens and software tokens: Considered the safest and secure way of protecting your data, smart cards or tokens randomly generate a unique key with the help of an internal identity code and user’s PIN. The key is frequently changed to prevent the chances of hacking.
It is up to you to take whatever measures you want to take to secure your network and information but you should definitely secure your network to avoid inconveniences and troubles in the future.