Hackers Crack London WLANs
U.K. firm RSA Security oversaw the planting of two secret 'honey pot' 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) networks in the City of London to record the number of hackers that would attack the network for illegal use.
Conducted over a three-week period in this past February and March, the two networks were set up in office locations away from any areas that were known to have been discovered by hackers, who usually mark the location of any wireless LAN network they find with so-called 'war-chalking’ symbols. RSA wasn’t keen to divulge exactly where the networks were set up, but the company’s strategic marketing director, Tim Pickard, tells Unstrung that the intent was to make them "a challenge to find."
Over the course of the experiment, the RSA networks were accessed on twenty-nine different occasions, with one hacker casually spending 90 carefree minutes online. The first unauthorized connection was made only two hours and thirty-five minutes after the networks went live.
"These results are alarming and show that wireless security just isn’t getting any better," says Pickard. "We want to make people aware of the amount of activity that is going on from a drive-by hacking perspective. These weren’t known networks. Imagine the levels of hacking live public networks must be experiencing."
Of course, it is in RSA's interest to publicize this data, but the results will make gloomy reading for the growing number of European enterprises preparing to roll out wireless LAN services by the end of 2004 (see Europe Set for WLAN Boom and Eurofirms Embrace 802.11).
In an effort to combat security fears, the industry is taking steps to alleviate these problems. WLAN industry organization Wi-Fi Alliance has outlined its plans to provide truly secure, standard wireless LAN products based on a preliminary solution called WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). Products incorporating WPA are currently being tested and should be certified and available in the next few months (see 802.11 Security Issues Sorted?).
Meanwhile a select group of startups are aiming to feed the market with dedicated 802.11 security devices (see Security Startups Thrive). According to the latest Wireless Oracle report, "802.11 Security Checkpoint," a conservative analysis estimates that these firms will have an addressable market of $500 million by 2006.
Vendors in this space include Bluesocket Inc., Cranite Systems Inc., Fortress Technologies Inc., ReefEdge Inc., and Vernier Networks Inc. The report argues that these companies are well positioned to compete alongside virtual private networks (VPNs), as well as the new WPA and 802.11i security systems set to hit the market later this year.
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung
Editor’s note: Neither Light Reading nor Unstrung is affiliated with Oracle Corporation