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Winnie the Poo and the Woozles

On Thursday, I joined Sky News, a laptop and an empty Pringles can on a tour of the city's 'Square Mile'. The mission, to eavesdrop on wireless networks and identify those which had failed to put in place even the most rudimentary protection against any passer-by 'dropping-in' to the network.

This stuff isn't new. I wrote about it in The Observer, well over a year ago and just about every computer publication has warned against 'the flakiness' of the wireless world, wide open as it is to hacker-friendly products such as AirSnort.

Wireless LAN (802.11) technology is increasingly attractive to business. I even have a Cisco Aeronet at home. It's wonderful, no cables and I can browse the web and collect my mail from anywhere in the house or garden. Trouble is, you might ask, have I protected myself by enabling the security? Probably not, I am after all at home and surely, wireless stays within the boundaries of my property? Of course it doesn't you'll tell me and the same applies to the fifty or so Wireless LANS that were picked up during the filming of the Sky News piece. Over sixty per cent of the networks detected were completely unprotected, not using WEP encryption (Wired Equivalent Protocol, not using anything, simply wide open, in principle allowing anyone to piggy-back the network for a free ride or worse, collect the traffic flowing back and forth along the network without anyone being the wiser.

It strikes me from looking at the statistics from today's small trawling exercise that far too many network administrators are taking stupid pills. After all that's happened in the last twelve month and the increasingly pervasive atmosphere of security that surrounds us, why on earth aren't they taking the simplest steps to protect their businesses. I don't know but I vaguely remember telling my small daughter a bedtime story, probably Winnie the Poo, which featured an 'Idiot Trap'. "What's an idiot trap" she asked. "Something to do with rabbit, a Pringles can and wireless networks", should have been my reply.

Oh.. And by the way, Woozles, are a type of weasle found in "Wind in the Willows" and only "Heffalumps" fall into idiot traps or so my readers remind me. Just as importantly, an empty Pringles can acts as a natural collector of wireless LAN signals and I'm told that Cheese and onion flavour works best!


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