Half of Dublin business Wi-Fi networks unsecured

8 May 2008

Out of 1,107 wireless networks found this year in Dublin’s business districts, some 54pc of these networks did not have their security settings switched on, researchers from Deloitte have revealed.

While the number of wireless connections found in Dublin’s business districts has increased by 25pc since 2006, there has only been a 2pc increase in the number of secure wireless connections.

Some 1,107 wireless connections were found in 2008, compared with 884 in 2006. Of these, 594 (54pc) were found to be insecure. In 2006, 497 (56pc) networks were found to be insecure.

“Insecure wireless networks are, in essence, easy prey for IT hackers to gain access to confidential company information,” explained Colm McDonnell, partner, Enterprise Risk Services, Deloitte.

“Once a connection is insecure, potentially all of a company’s information is available to outside parties. The fact that the growth rate of new wireless connections is so far above the growth rate of secure wireless connections means there are more and more opportunities for hackers to attack.”

Deloitte’s research also found that a larger proportion of businesses (12pc in 2008, compared with 8pc in 2006) are choosing to name their networks transparently as belonging to them – which can be a security risk if an attacker targets a particular company.

That said, the proportion of obscured ID connections has increased by 3pc, which shows some sign that companies are beginning to pay attention to their wireless connections.

“It’s clear from these results that organisations are still not adequately addressing their IT security needs. While they are enjoying the benefits of wireless connectivity, such as increased efficiency and reduced costs, they are, at the same time, ignoring the associated risks,” McDonnell said.

“In our experience, most companies do not realise the extent to which they are vulnerable to an attack from hackers, or how serious that attack can be. It is important that companies are educated on the risks of insecure wireless connections, as once the problem is identified it can be easily remedied.”

The research also found that the number of wireless hotspots, usually used to provide free public access, has decreased from 72 in 2006 to 60 in 2008.

There was a significant decrease in the number of hotspots found in the IFSC (down 15 to 6), while the number of hotspots in Merrion Square jumped to 17 from just one in 2006.

“Even omitting these wireless hotspots from the assessment, we see that since the last assessment in 2006, there has only been an 8pc decrease in unintentionally insecure access points as a proportion of the whole.

“This again re-iterates that companies are simply not acting on this problem, which leaves them at risk to serious data leakages,” said McDonnell.

By John Kennedy