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APs pose WLAN security risk: Gartner

Upwards of 70% of successful wireless local area network (WLAN) attacks during the next two years will be because o...


June 11, 2004  


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Upwards of 70% of successful wireless local area network (WLAN) attacks during the next two years will be because of the misconfiguration of WLAN access points (AP) and client software, according to Gartner, Inc.

Security for WLANs and personal digital assistants (PDAs) in a company needs to be driven by updated security policies that address the unique demands of the mobile workplace, the research firm said.

Gartner presented the findings this week at its IT Security Summit 2004 in Washington, D.C.

“Whether hackers are able to enter a company’s WLAN through an unprotected AP or through a peer workstation, once they are associated with the network, they will be difficult to detect because they may not be visible in or near the network site,” said John Pescatore, a Gartner vice president.

“A clever hacker will play it safe and use the company’s resources quietly, and as a result, may never be found.”

To protect themselves, businesses must make sure that employees or hackers don’t install unauthorized wireless APs on the network and that APs are configured securely. In dense environments, such as urban areas or multi-tenant office buildings, the company said.

The least expensive, and least effective, way of doing this is to buy a wireless sniffer handheld and walk the perimeter of the network. The most expensive, and most secure, is to install a separate set of wireless intrusion detection sensors, it said.

“Businesses should use sniffers to demonstrate potential exposure problems to management, especially to the management that funds security problems,” Pescatore said.

“Sniffer walks should not be attempted as an ongoing survey method, but should be kept on standby. If rogue WLAN activity is detected by network monitoring systems, individual members of the IT staff can be dispatched, to act as trackers, to hone in on unauthorized signal sources.”