Many Irish Wi-Fi routers still unsecured

15 Feb 2008

Despite the revelations of an alleged security hole in wireless routers issued by Eircom – in reality the security feature on the devices wasn’t switched on – a significant number of Irish wireless hotspot owners’ networks are still unsecured.

As part of the research for this week’s Make IT Secure campaign, which is backed by the Department of Communications and a consortium of IT and telecoms firms, security firm Espion spent 2.5 hours scanning residential and industrial areas in Dublin detecting wireless networks.

Out of some 1,411 wireless access points detected within 149 minutes in Dublin, 16pc were unsecured.

Driving around Irish residential areas, Espion was able to find one unsecured wireless network per minute.

In industrial areas of Dublin, Espion was able to identify 847 wireless access points. Of these, 25pc were found to be unsecured.

Within these industrial areas, two unsecured access points were detected every minute.

A spokesman for Eircom said he wasn’t surprised 16pc of residential wireless hostpots aren’t secure.

“A lot of people assume the security defaults set up on the routers when they take them out of their packaging are enough. Really it requires vigilance and being active about maintaining fresh passwords. This applies especially to wireless routers.”

Returning to the recent controversy over the alleged ‘security hole’ which was in fact routers that didn’t have the Wireless Encryption Protocol (WEP) setting switched on, the spokesman said: “As Ireland’s largest ISP and the one that issues wireless modems as standard, we contacted everyone who had a wireless modem and gave them instructions and a link to a site instructing them how to change their password.

“This was a first step. It has actually given us the opportunity to put in place additional protocols called Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), which is the next step up from WEP.”

The spokesman said the site issuing the security instructions registered 100,000 hits.

“WPA will be included in all new wireless modems that will be shipping from this spring. We are also currently testing a new standard called WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Set-up) which automatically establishes security settings during set-up. This is the highest level of protocol currently available for Wi-Fi,” the spokesman added.

By John Kennedy