Two fifths of WLANs in Dublin are open to hackers

12 May 2005

Almost 40pc of wireless networks in Dublin do not use encryption technology, leaving them unsecured and vulnerable to being accessed by unauthorised third parties.

A survey by Global Secure Systems (GSS) has uncovered that close to half of all access points in Dublin (522 out of 1,035) are unprotected by encryption; however GSS found that some of these belong to wireless hotspots, which need to remain ‘open’ in order for customers to use them. Of more concern are the 395 private or business access points (38pc of the total) that were accessible when a connection was attempted, even though they are not intended for public use.

Conducted last month, the survey took in large parts of central Dublin, including the International Financial Service Centre and the areas around Dublin 2 and Dublin 4 that are heavily populated by businesses. It also covered the industrial parks at Citywest Business Campus, Park West Business Park and Sandyford.

According to GSS, the number of insecure wireless networks in Dublin does not differ greatly from similar surveys performed in Frankfurt, New York, San Francisco and London. The report stated: “It would seem that there is still a major disregard for the need to ensure that data is not intercepted and used by unauthorised parties.”

The number of public wireless hotspots around the city is growing, but this has unwanted consequences for businesses, GSS warned. “Hotspots have massively increased the threat to businesses using wireless networks in a number of ways. Initially they are responsible for more people searching for accessible networks; unlike in previous years, if you have an unsecured wireless local area network [WLAN] today, it is likely to be found and used!”

The report added that “Dublin is not one of the best-prepared cities in terms of wireless security and in an environment that is quickly progressing to ‘wireless everywhere’ that should be a major cause for concern”.

GSS advised that businesses should educate themselves about best practices for wireless security and cautioned that there was potential for corporate disruption if action is not taken. “The dangers are obvious: unauthorised users can and do access unprotected or poorly-protected WLANs,” it said.

The survey data will be formally launched at a free wireless security seminar to be held next Wednesday 18 May in Croke Park Conference Centre.

By Gordon Smith