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Wifi Security For Dummies

 
 
Pete Holland Jr.
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      05-04-2008
My dad comes to me for help with computers, and today, he came to me
with something completely outside my area of expertise, so I'm hoping
you guys can help me.

It concerns wireless networking. Keep in mind, I don't know anything
about networks, I keep my computers sandboxed and use removable media
to shuttle information between them. I have a wifi card for my laptop
at hot spots, but paranoia makes me only check sites that don't
require me to log in (and using my credit card over a wifi network is
a definite no-no).

My dad is planning a huge, long vacation later this year. He wants to
take his laptop, an Apple G4 iBook equipped with an Airport card, with
for things like online banking. But he's concerned about computer
security and asked me to see how to keep things safe.

He doesn't have file sharing activated, so I'm not too concerned about
that. My concern is the actual data transmission. I have heard a
technique called "sidejacking" is on the rise. I always wondered
about wireless and, since everything is transmitted, if a receiver can
pick up the signals, analogous to another radio picking up the same
broadcast station. Based on some of the news I've been reading, my
concern is not only valid, but it is being used -- people can park at,
say, a Starbucks and "listen in" on other computers communicating with
the server, intercepting passwords, credit card numbers, etc.

I just got back from an Apple store, and when I asked the guy at the
Genius Bar about it, he said he had never heard of anyone sidejacking
in 5 years in the business. So no dice with him.

So, the basic question is, is there a way to secure data transmission
and receiving? Should he not use anything that doesn't ask for a WPA
password (no going to Panera Bread or Starbucks)? And, since a
sidejacker can pick up whatever is being sent, what's to keep them
from grabbing the WPA password or https encryptions and cracking them
anyway? Or, is there a book for a wifi security newbie that will help
clear this stuff up?
 
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monkey_cartman@yahoo.com
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      05-04-2008


Pete Holland Jr. wrote:
> My dad comes to me for help with computers, and today, he came to me
> with something completely outside my area of expertise, so I'm hoping
> you guys can help me.
>
> It concerns wireless networking. Keep in mind, I don't know anything
> about networks, I keep my computers sandboxed and use removable media
> to shuttle information between them. I have a wifi card for my laptop
> at hot spots, but paranoia makes me only check sites that don't
> require me to log in (and using my credit card over a wifi network is
> a definite no-no).
>
> My dad is planning a huge, long vacation later this year. He wants to
> take his laptop, an Apple G4 iBook equipped with an Airport card, with
> for things like online banking. But he's concerned about computer
> security and asked me to see how to keep things safe.
>
> He doesn't have file sharing activated, so I'm not too concerned about
> that. My concern is the actual data transmission. I have heard a
> technique called "sidejacking" is on the rise. I always wondered
> about wireless and, since everything is transmitted, if a receiver can
> pick up the signals, analogous to another radio picking up the same
> broadcast station. Based on some of the news I've been reading, my
> concern is not only valid, but it is being used -- people can park at,
> say, a Starbucks and "listen in" on other computers communicating with
> the server, intercepting passwords, credit card numbers, etc.
>
> I just got back from an Apple store, and when I asked the guy at the
> Genius Bar about it, he said he had never heard of anyone sidejacking
> in 5 years in the business. So no dice with him.
>
> So, the basic question is, is there a way to secure data transmission
> and receiving? Should he not use anything that doesn't ask for a WPA
> password (no going to Panera Bread or Starbucks)? And, since a
> sidejacker can pick up whatever is being sent, what's to keep them
> from grabbing the WPA password or https encryptions and cracking them
> anyway? Or, is there a book for a wifi security newbie that will help
> clear this stuff up?


If one were connected to a banking site the transmissions would be
encrypted and I assume would be just as safe, vulnerable, as a wired
connection. For privacy there are encryption services like cotse, or
there are free web proxies
that use ssl like at https://proxy.org/ or there is tor for free. If
it's not end to end encryption, like banking is then it
will be unencrypted at some point, but anybody sniffing the wireless
signal would have no ability to see passwords
or the like. Maybe if somebody was gungho on attacking they could
maybe accomplish something but it's really not even close to being
likely..
 
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catchme
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      05-04-2008
Pete Holland Jr. wrote:

>
> So, the basic question is, is there a way to secure data transmission
> and receiving? Should he not use anything that doesn't ask for a WPA
> password (no going to Panera Bread or Starbucks)? And, since a
> sidejacker can pick up whatever is being sent, what's to keep them
> from grabbing the WPA password or https encryptions and cracking them
> anyway? Or, is there a book for a wifi security newbie that will help
> clear this stuff up?


any use of a computer in a public enviroment is a risk, even if the
transmission itself is secure.
You must be cautious about what people might read from your screen from
over your shoulder, too.
i know people who are so uptight about their computer security, and yet
strangely lax about what might be revealed in other's line of sight.
good on you to avoid coffee shops for internet access.
if interested in accessing unsecure networks, google wardriving.


--
To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States,
Resist much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth,
ever after-ward resumes its liberty.

-Walt Whitman, 1860
 
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Pete Holland Jr.
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      05-05-2008
I just wanted to say thank you for the advice you gave me. I
appreciate it. Just trying to be polite. At least until the 'Net
evolves to a point where I can send beer out instead of electrons.
 
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