Wired or Wireless: Which Is More Secure?

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Nine Steps to Securing Your Wireless Network

Steps you can take to protect your wireless network.

People have different views on the level of security of wired networks. One thing that we might all agree on, however, is that the situation is far better than it was a few years ago. At that time, there was a real possibility that hackers, crackers and other miscreants could endanger the very survival of the Internet, especially as a commercial entity.

Vendors, service providers and others-with a big effort by Microsoft, the main offender-took the danger to heart and instituted subtle and overt changes.

Now, the focal point of danger is shifting to the mobile sphere. This Network World piece reports on a study by Arbor Networks that suggests that mobile is as long as 10 years behind wireline in security.

The comparison is valid at the highest level as a sign that the wireless industry has to get its security act together. It also is important to remember that there are significant differences in security between the two industry segments. Back in the days when wireline security teetered on the brink, an often-cited reason was there was a Windows "monoculture." Crackers had one target and a relatively insecure one. They hit it mercilessly. Today, of course, there is a wide variety of wireless OSes. This makes life a bit trickier for criminals.

It is important not to panic. This PC World story takes a level-headed look at the Soundminer eavesdropping malware, which actually was developed by researchers. It can listen for credit card numbers, passwords and other valuable bits of information. While acknowledging that the software is "ingenious," the writer says that fears of it are overblown:

As is typical, many are heralding it as a sign of a smartphone security apocalypse, but they need to calm down. Cybercriminals simply aren't that smart, and there's nothing new to be worried about.

Actually, writer Keir Thomas' reason not to be too worried about Soundminer-that, in essence, it is too good-is a bit of a worry in and of itself. His point isn't that Soundminer is flawed or that a brilliant team of AV pros is working 24/7 for its defeat, it is that it's unnecessarily complex in a world where so much valuable information can be gleaned far more simply. So, while panic isn't necessary, a good dose of old-fashioned concern perhaps is.

Silicon.com takes on the issue of whether wireless or wired networks are safer. The sense of the article is that the key targets still are in the wired world. The writer interviewed a number of experts. The common wisdom seems to be that smartphone viruses still are comparatively rare and that the most common PC operating system, Windows XP, still offers significant potential targets to crackers.

Writer Natasha Lomas cites F-Secure Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen to the effect that things may change-but not quite yet:

More than half the world's PCs are still running Microsoft's 10-year-old operating system, according to Hypponen - which continues to keep cybercriminals occupied. "Yes, the attackers and the criminals go after the softest target. However, the softest target is not the mobile phone - it is these old computers, which are not only the softest target but also the biggest target.

Smartphones and tablets are unseating PCs as the pivotal computing device for business, something that was unthinkable even a couple of years ago. Likewise, it is inevitable that criminals-who are famous for following the money-eventually will be more interested in wireless than wired devices. It is not clear whether that Rubicon has been crossed or lies ahead.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 3, 2011 8:13 AM Brijendra Dharampuria Brijendra Dharampuria  says:

This is very critical issue specially for IT related services. This issue get raise after Blackbarry statement to not providing data to government. I this this discuss will continue for long time but according to me wired is more secure.


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