Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

If you think your net connection is secure, look outside.

Wireless is the ultimate in mobility, but it comes at a cost. Case in point: I was riding the bus on Mission Street in San Francisco the other day, happily writing an article when I hit Second Street. My Cisco Aironet 350 client adapter beamed to life and I had Internet access. Someone, somewhere close had an 802.11 access point configured and my computer was communicating with it. And as quickly as it came, it went. I had hacked, and I wasnt even trying!

My interest piqued, I returned to the spot on foot the next morning, laptop in hand and accompanied by unsettling stares from strangers.

Not only could I get access to the Internet, but I also explored Network Neighborhood and found workgroups such as Diabolicworld and WetFeet. In Workgroup—my workgroup—I even explored a computer named Kristy by typing in the user name "administrator" with no password.

Whoever configured that 802.11 network didnt take even the most basic security steps like turning off broadcast mode so the network identifier for the access point (the SSID) would have to be known to communicate with it. Encryption? Forget about it.

So let this be a cautionary tale. Its easier than you might think to compromise a wireless network—even if youre not trying.