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Range extenders a security risk for in-house Wi-Fi

Global Secure Systems (GSS) : 04 June, 2008  (Technical Article)
With technology available to easily extend the range of Wi-Fi access points beyond the range of the office boundaries, corporate users need to re-think their secure access policy
Global Secure Systems (GSS) says that a growing number of gadgets are now appearing on the market to offer WiFi users extended range when picking up 'free' WiFi signals.

'These devices, which can be obtained for under 20.00 pounds or so, can easily extend the effective range of a WiFi access point or router up to two or three hundred yards. This means that companies that think their WiFi access point is limited to their company building, need to think again,' said David Hobson, GSS' managing director.

According to Hobson, many companies do not secure their in-building WiFi access point or change their administrator password, because they think the range of the facility is limited to a few tens of feet within their offices.

'A couple of years ago, this may have been the case, but with an extended range antenna, often fashioned out of a used Pringles crisps tin, hackers can easily access company WiFi facilities a block or more away,' he said.

'And if they know the router's default admin password, they can intercept traffic to their own infected dummy page - Google is a classic example - by changing the router's DNS lookups, and bingo! You have infected PCs under hacker control with the company. This can get nasty,' he added.

Hobson's comments come after HD Communications has released a sub-200 pound 802.11g WiFi router with a claimed line-of-sight range of up to five miles - with a non-line-of-sight version due shortly.

'802.11g is rapidly becoming the mainstay of many WiFi networks, and company kit often supports the newer, if unratified, 802.11n technology, which extends ranges considerably,' he said.

'Companies that have installed WiFi networks in their offices now need to re-examine the range of their systems and always used encryption passwords on their connections, even for guests in the building. And they should change their router admin passwords as well,' he added.

Ideally, says Hobson, companies offering guest access to WiFi in their offices should install a second WiFi router, only connected to the public Internet, and not to any company resources.

That way he says, they can ensure the security of their own company WiFi network, which still requires regular monitoring, updates and password changes
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