Corporate Mission: Protect Home WLANs

Carl Weinschenk

Protecting home wireless networks doesn't seem like it would be a big concern for corporations. But it is, for both direct and indirect reasons.


The direct reason is simple: A lot of businesses -- through both telecommuters and small offices/home offices (SOHO) -- use home Wi-Fis. On the telecommuter side, PCs usually are linked in some way to corporate databases, so an insecure home network potentially provides a free pass through a company's firewall.


Indirectly, insecure consumer networks and equipment are "attack vectors," which is the jargony name security folks use to describe vulnerable spots that invite bad guys. Even more indirectly, insecure consumer networks generally degrade the Internet, which is a bad thing for every honest company using it to advance its business.


There are two initiatives mentioned in this Wi-Fi Planet piece. In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed into law legislation that in a year will require home networking gear to carry warnings about the dangers of insecure access. The piece also discusses an initiative by the Wi-Fi Alliance to make it easier for customers to turn their security on.


It's heartening that people are paying attention to wireless security at all levels. If the efforts succeed, the criminals will find it more difficult to attack the Internet through its soft consumer underbelly. This is serious business: Botnets, the huge armies of PCs commandeered by malicious software, largely are comprised of home PCs.


A big problem is that consumer wireless networking gear generally comes with the default settings turned off. The rationale is making setup easy enough for consumers to use. The ultimate goal is a scenario in which security is turned on by default, and it seems that this is drawing closer.


Corporate IT departments have plenty of reason to push for more secure consumer wireless gear. The Internet is an essentially flat network, which means that an attack on any corporate behemoth can be launched from the most innocuous of sites. That's always been a scary thought, and it's time to do something about it.

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