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WiFi consumerization raising security concerns

 

The growing WiFi capability in the variety of consumer devices is readily evident nowadays. These devices include cameras, camcorders, printers, scanners, smartphones, televisions, music/video players, e-book readers and many more. Having been equipped with WiFi capability, these devices are providing many convenience angles to their users but, at the same time, security concerns have increased for organizations due to consumerization of these devices in the organizational environment.
 
The raised security concerns are clearly apparent due to following facts:
  • Easy snooping of private data exchanged by WiFi capable consumer electronic (CE) devices during a wireless session initiated with the device that is not using a strong WiFi security configuration.
  • Easy access to the WiFi capable CE device configured with poor WiFi security.
  • Easy access to unauthorized WiFi networks using WiFi capable CE devices.
  • Unauthorized access to authorized networks, carried out by exploiting the special WiFi capabilities in the CE devices, such as hosting a software access points. 
 
The fact of increased security concerns due to CE devices was recently highlighted by a story on ABC7 news which focused mainly on security problems due to WiFi printers and scanners. Also, a recent article focused on WiFi consumerization risks for an IT administrator of an enterprise.
 
As compared to enterprise-grade WiFi security features provided in laptops/netbooks and other enterprise grade devices, most consumer electronic devices rely on simplicity and hence do not involve strong WiFi security configurations. Also, most users of CE devices find it difficult to understand and configure strong WiFi security. Keeping this in mind, the WiFi alliance has come up with the WiFi protected Setup (WPS) standard to ease the set up of strong WiFi security configuration for WiFi capable CE devices, but:
 
  • WPS has its own limitations, such as unintended CE devices can connect to WiFi networks while using the push button configuration option of the standard. Also, no WPS support is present for the WiFi adhoc mode, which is available in many CE devices.
  • Manufacturers of CE devices around the globe will take time to integrate WPS into their devices.
  • Most of the users are still not aware of the WPS capability and hence it will take time for WPS understanding to spread among the masses.  
  • WPS is difficult to integrate into a secure enterprise WiFi network.
 
Thus, considering the increased availability of WiFi integrated CE devices, users must understand the kinds of security risks associated with various devices due to their WiFi capability and, therefore, adhere to best practices to avoid risks while using these devices in a corporate environment. On the other hand, corporate administrators should consider the deployment of Wireless Intrusion Detection/Prevention systems (WIDS/WIPS) if they are seeking active protection from the increased security risks of WiFi consumerization, which could affect corporate processes, productivity and confidentiality. 

 

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