Wi-Fi Access Point Privacy Issues

One of the issues with using any wireless technology is that any expectation of privacy is akin to screaming at the top of your voice in a mall and expecting no one to hear you. You can’t hear radio signals with your ears, but wireless transmits them in all directions and all it takes is an antenna to receive them. The radio signal doesn’t discriminate between the intended recipient and someone lurking in the background. Few people seem to understand this concept because they can’t actually hear the radio signal or see just how far it transmits.

Unless the communication is properly secured, assuming that you can safely send sensitive data using wireless technology is also a delusion. In fact, the lack of physical security makes wireless connectivity a risky choice anyway. Anyone can create a man-in-the-middle attack to place themselves between you and the access point you think you’re using. In addition, just hearing your supposedly secret conversation can give the hacker access to the data. Network Computing recently ran an article, The 9 Worst WiFi Security Mistakes, that outlines some of the serious consequences of not using Wi-Fi and other wireless connectivity with security in mind.

Wi-Fi endangers both security and privacy in a big way (even though the former issue seems to receive the most coverage). A recent article, Wi-Fi access point scans can betray a person’s location, points out that using Wi-Fi really is quite risky from a privacy perspective. Location data can help hackers guess user activities in some cases. The risk isn’t hypothetical or in the laboratory—it’s a real risk that exists right now. The fact that people don’t seem to want to pay attention to it makes the situation worse because hackers and others of ill intent could employ the techniques discussed in the article for a variety of purposes (none of them good). Even though the article focuses on consumer tracking, it isn’t hard to imagine using it for business purposes as well.

Wireless access actually amplifies security issues that are a problem for consumers and businesses alike anyway. A recent article, Don’t count on websites to hide your account info, discusses web site security issues. When you combine a lack of web site security, with wireless privacy and security issues, it becomes nearly impossible to ensure that the connection will remain secure enough to perform any task of a sensitive nature. When the network and endpoint are both suspect, you need to devise a robust app development and usage strategy (as described in Security for Web Developers). That is, unless you really do want everyone to hear you screaming from the rooftop.

Many high-end routers provide you with advanced configuration features (something I discuss to some extent in Build Your Own PC on a Budget). For example, you can choose to use only WPA2 security. According to a number of sources, such as PCWorld, WPA2 is the best solution to wireless security right now. Of course, you still need to use good passwords and employ other router features such as port filtering, IP packet filtering, URL keyword filtering, and MAC address filtering. Make sure you set up a guest account with a real password and change that password after your guest is done using your router. Limit guest access to only those areas a guest actually needs.

Wireless connectivity is a fact of life today—you can’t really get around it because wireless connectivity offers too many benefits to ignore. However, it’s important to remember that wireless lacks the physical security of a wired network connection, which means that you need to be extremely careful when using it or face the consequences. Let me know your thoughts about wireless connectivity security and privacy concerns at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Build Your Own PC on a Budget Released!

I’ve been building my own computers for many years now. In fact, except for that first PC1 that I purchased many years ago from a friend (and modified until it finally died), I don’t know that I’ve ever purchased a computer for myself that was ready to run the moment it arrived on my doorstep because there is just something so amazing about putting the hardware together, installing the operating system, and seeing it boot for the first time. Many industry pundits say that the desktop PC is dead—replaced by laptops, notebooks, and even smartphones. It’s true that you can perform many computer tasks using these other systems and that many people will never need anything more, but for those of us who truly indulge our inner geek, nothing beats a custom built computer that is literally packed with the best technology available. It’s for those of us who need to satisfy the inner geek that I wrote Build Your Own PC on a Budget.

Of course, if you’re going to take the time and effort to build your own PC, you want it to precisely meet your needs and you want to get a deal on it. Normally, the systems I build for myself run about $2,500.00. I want high end graphics, lots of memory, speedy hard drives, and the best processors. I want a system that provides the maximum in expansion potential and promises a long lifespan. However, that’s me. For this book I wanted to create a computer system with more reasonable goals, so I designed a system around a $750 budget. The results are nothing less than incredible. What I ended up with was a moderately high end system that any gamer would like to have. The system focused on graphics capability so that the person receiving it would be able to work with images with a high degree of accuracy. In addition, this system has all the latest connectivity options, including both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. In short, this is a great workstation and a good gaming system.

Build Your Own PC on a Budget uses this example system throughout to discuss principles. That’s right, the book actually follows the process of building this PC. However, it goes much further. I provide you with guidance on how you can modify this design to meet your specific needs. The question that this book answers most often is how to obtain the PC that you need and want, rather that settle for the PC that someone else designed to sell quickly to meet the needs of most people. You’re special, so you deserve a special PC. That’s what this book is all about.

One of the things that I strove for when putting this book together is clear photographs. Other books that I tried using when I first started building my own PCs often had muddy pictures that proved nearly useless. Pegg Conderman, my photographer for this book, went the extra mile in ensuring that the photos were absolutely clear. (You should have seen the contortions she went through to obtain this goal). I think you’ll agree that the photos really do set this book apart and make it the ultimate in usability.

If you have a strong desire to satisfy your inner geek, this is the book for you. I take you through the process step-by-step. Please let me know about your questions and concerns for this book at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. As with all my books, I want you to be truly happy with the results you get from this book.