Protect Your Mesh
I thought that I would look at the issue of security on citywide metromesh networks for some of my stories because it seems to me that this is an important topic to air out before these networks go live in major urban areas in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
So far, I've laid out some of the possible security threats associated with these networks and elicited some vendor response. (See Metro-Mesh: A Hacker's Paradise? and Metromesh Security: Strix Strikes Back.) There's plenty of reporting still to be done on the topic. Notably, a couple of vendors and analysts have started to run specific tests on mesh security. I hope to be able to write up more information on this soon.
I did, however, think that it would be good to get some input on the issue from someone who has been dealing with public access WiFi for a good few years -- Dana Spiegel, executive director of NYC Wireless , a not-for-proft organization dedicated to free WiFi in the Big Apple.
Spiegel says that with any public access network user education is the key to staying safe on the air. The problem is exacerbated with municipal WiFi mesh networks, he believes, because part of the raison d'être of some of these networks is to end the so-called "digital divide" and give people who may not have been able to afford it before access to the Internet.
"It's as if you've given someone the keys to a car but you haven't taught them how to drive," Spiegel says. He adds that NYC Wireless already does some training like this, teaching people the basics of WiFi safety, such as running a firewall.
He thinks it likely that some cities will follow suit as they put down mesh roots. "Philadelphia does have training as part of its budget expense," he notes.
I wonder, however, if training programs are going to be able to reach the large number of people who could potentially come into contact with a citywide mesh network. I suppose we'll find out as this stuff goes live.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung