Wireless modem considerations

May 1, 2008 – 4:44 AM

I am pretty sure that there are a number of you out there reading this blog over a wireless network. Given that wireless is so widely distributed these days, its not uncommon that users are unaware of how insecure their wireless setup maybe.

Unfortunately one other reality is that a number of ISP’s install wireless modems without setting up any sort of security. What’s worse is that if the client doesn’t speak up – they don’t quite advise the customer of what could be at risk. Basically as long as your laptop/device successfully connects to the wireless LAN that is setup up for you, they’re out of there. SOO – this is where we come in to offer some advice.

If you connect to your wireless router without a password, its time to get hold of a technician who knows his business and set up some security on it. That’s not all…

Recent developments published by Petko D. Petkov reveal some pretty nasty things an attacker can do to Thomson Speedtouch wireless modems – which is what a lot of us Maltese people have at home to connect to the internet.

Thanks to a friend of mine who first pointed out the article above, it is now possible that if an attacker sees your default network name (SSID) then it would be possible for him to crack your default password and use your internet connection. Therefore here are some healthy tips you could pass onto your technician if you’re not confident to set them yourself.

Use WPA2 encryption rather than WEP/WPA.

Note that this will affect usage of early PDA’s wireless and even computers with Windows XP. In fact you will need to download a patch for Windows XP to use WPA2. Also certain old wireless adapters (802.11b) might not have updated drivers, so do your homework to see if your adapter can use WPA2 before you start changing anything.
Change the default network name (SSID)

Change the default name of your router to something else. Invent an name.
Change the default password (preshared key)

If you don’t have a password – PUT ONE. If the router is using a default password, its a good idea to change it unless you don’t mind sharing your internet conenction with your neighbours.

There are various other things that could be done of course to continue to increase the security on your router, however they are above and beyond the scope of this article. Some of them would include:

Enable MAC filtering to only allow certain computers to connect to your router. Be careful though! Do not use this as the only security measure as MAC addresses are easily spoofed.

Hide your network name (SSID). This would imply that your network is not immediately visible to the world. A bit of security through obscurity. Do not use this as the only security measure as often hackers beyond the common user know how these pose no threat to them trying to hack your network.

Enable your stateful packet inspection (SPI) firewall on the router. This would help block people connecting to the router for whatever reason – and only allow outgoing connections from your internal machines outwards to communicate to and fro.

Change the default password to access the configuration of your wireless router / modem. There are whole lists of these default passwords out on the net. Be aware that if an attacker gains access to your network, he can easily meddle with your router settings and cause a lot of frustration if passwords are left at their default value.

Source: Malta Info Security

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