Wireless Networks Open Another Avenue for ID Theft

Interhack scientist Pete Ware discusses the potential role of wireless networking in identity theft with WBNS-10TV's Roger McCoy.

WBNS-10TV's Roger McCoy discusses identity theft on the February 4, 2003 installment of the "Stay Connected" series. Interhack's Pete Ware discusses a side to identity theft that many do not consider: the potential for thieves to collect personal information needed to steal others' identity with wireless networks.

On many corporate networks, a lot of information could be used to perpetrate identity theft and other crimes against the companies and their customers. Corporate networks frequently carry, among other things, "personal email, business plans, company finances," notes Ware. "It's all there for the picking when wireless networks are left unsecured."

(In the demonstration for WBNS-10TV, Interhack avoided making connections to any vulnerable networks and intercepting the contents of the traffic being broadcast. However, simply spending ten minutes searching for networks that advertise their presence resulted in the discovery of fifteen unsecured networks in downtown Columbus.)

In a recent test Interhack conducted for one of its clients, such personal data as names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and social security numbers were being broadcast in the clear. By sitting in a car several hundred yards away, Interhack's Red Team successfully intercepted these data and more.

With the rise of identity theft as a major problem plaguing consumers and their lenders, individual vigilance is becoming more important daily, as discussed in Roger McCoy's piece, which also included helpful tips for combating identity theft.

However, even the most vigilant consumer cannot protect himself against someone stealing personal information from insecure networks. Organizations that maintain any information about people must be special attention to the need to keep their systems worthy of consumers' trust. Companies without the expertise to deploy technologies safely must bring in experts (Interhack would be happy to recommend some) or must be willing to forego the convenience potentially presented by the technology.

The cost of wireless networking is very low. However, when considering deploying wireless networks, be sure also to consider the cost of securing and maintaining those networks. Just as automobiles have not only the purchase cost, but the costs of fuel and insurance to consider, information technology must be understood in terms of its total cost over time -- including the damage that could be caused by failing to operate it responsibly.

About "Stay Connected"

"Stay Connected" with Roger McCoy airs on WBNS-10TV (Columbus) each Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30pm, keeping consumers informed and in touch with the changes technology brings to our lives.

About Interhack

Interhack is a Columbus-based advanced technology firm with practices in Information Assurance, Forensic Computing, and Trustworthy Computing. With clients all over North America and across a wide variety of industries, Interhack's mission is to help information technology to achieve its potential as a useful servant of humanity.