RSA Study: Wireless Network Security Tightens Up

By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2006-05-25 Print this article Print

Research from the encryption company suggests that an increasing number of networks in major cities are being protected, but dangers like counterfeit wireless access points are also on the rise.

A new study published by researchers at RSA Security finds that as the number of wireless networks located in some of the world's largest cities is growing, so is the number of those systems protected by encryption or other IT defenses.

While in years past researchers found that businesses and consumers were often setting up wireless networks without thoroughly applying security measures, RSA said its most recent tests found that many people are taking additional steps to make sure that their systems are protected from unauthorized use and so-called war-driving attacks.

Authentication and encryption specialist RSA, with help from an independent research firm, gathered its information by engaging in war-driving in cities such as London, New York and Paris.

The process involves moving around the city in a vehicle while searching for wireless hotspots on a laptop, and then trying to break into the systems to determine whether they are defended.

Criminals are known to engage in the scheme to gain access to unprotected corporate or home networks where they can infiltrate user devices or carry out attacks using the unmonitored Internet connections.

In addition to testing security, RSA also tracked the number of wireless networks it could find on its war-driving missions. According to the study, the largest yearly increase in hotspots was found in London, where the company detected 57 percent more wireless access points than found by RSA's similar study in 2005. New York now has 20 percent more wireless networks than it had in 2005.

RSA did not provide year-over-year results for Paris, as it did not test there in 2005, but the company said that since 2004 the city has seen the number of wireless systems grow by an impressive 119 percent.

Paris also claimed a leadership spot in the percentage of wireless access points protected by WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) security settings, the technology most often included by networking gear makers as a default defense mechanism in their products. Roughly 78 percent of all WLAN (wireless LAN) and Wi-Fi systems found by RSA in Paris were encrypted with WEP, compared to only 69 percent of the systems RSA located in the city in 2004.

In London, RSA found that WEP usage increased to 74 percent of all networks in 2006, up from 65 percent in 2005, while 75 percent of networks found in New York use WEP defenses, up from 62 percent in 2005.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: RSA Study: Wireless Network Security Tightens Up


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