Wifi Security For Dummies

Discussion in 'Computer Support' started by Pete Holland Jr., May 4, 2008.

  1. 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?
    Pete Holland Jr., May 4, 2008
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  2. 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
    monkey_cartman, May 4, 2008
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  3. Pete Holland Jr.

    catchme Guest

    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
    catchme, May 4, 2008
  4. 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. ;-)
    Pete Holland Jr., May 5, 2008
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