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Modern Day Home Invasion: Securing Your Wi-Fi Signal

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 32 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2005 Pages: 140,142,144
Joe Tomasone
Date Published
September 2005
4 pages
This article explains how wireless laptop computers can be used to invade wireless home computer networks and recommends security measures to counter this threat.
Wireless computer systems offer the convenience of roaming within a given area and holding a constant connection to the Internet. A typical wireless signal can reach up to 300 feet and can easily extend beyond the walls of houses where a system operates. Would-be thieves can sit outside a house with a wireless computer system and attach to that system with a laptop, providing them with a connection to their victims' computer that is difficult to detect. This enables criminals to access personal information (identity theft), launch attacks against third parties anonymously, or send e-mails that will be traced back to the victim. There are a few steps that, although not an absolute defense from attacks, will make residential wireless networks more secure. A wireless equivalent protocol (WEP) is a security protocol for wireless networks that provides security with a low-level encryption. Although a WEP can be readily defeated by a knowledgeable criminal, it is better than leaving the system completely defenseless. Wi-Fi protected access (WPA) uses the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) to provide stronger encryption than WEP. It includes a pre-shared key authentication mechanism that should be sufficient for most home users as long as the pre-shared key is not based on a dictionary word. Another security step is to unplug the wireless router when it is not being used. The article concludes with suggestions for what to do if a system is compromised.