Local Politicians Say Open WiFi Should Be Illegal

from the seems-a-bit-extreme dept

It's quite well known that there are security issues with WiFi networks, but there are ways to take precautions and make yourself pretty safe. As education gets better, it the security risks shouldn't be as big a deal. However, some local politicians in Westchester County, NY have decided to go a step further. According to Guy Kewney, Westchester's County Executive is proposing a law that would basically outlaw open WiFi from any commercial business. As Kewney points out, in the description of the "problem" it appears that the politicians are a bit confused about the actual problem, mixing up a few different issues related to WiFi and security. Obviously, it's a good idea to encourage commercial WiFi providers to make their networks more secure -- but does it really need a law? Update: To clarify, since there's some confusion, by "open WiFi," we mean unsecured WiFi. They're not saying businesses can't offer WiFi, but that it has to include security. But, the examples the politicians give are all just about regular open WiFi access points.

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  1. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 4 Nov 2005 @ 11:24am

    Most Of You Have Misinterpreted

    Most of you have read extra things into the story that are not there. The Politico IS NOT saying that public WiFi hotspots need to have security enabled, NOR is he saying that individual citizens need to do so to their home WiFi.

    He IS saying that businesses that hold confidential user data in their computers or network MUST enable some kind of security to protect that data if their networks are accessible through WiFi.

    This seems like a basic step that should be a no-brainer, but some business owners are not savvy on tech issues.

    A stupid example is: say you're a woman with grey hair and you secretly dye it blond. Your hairstylist has invoices in her PC for you with the line item "blond hair dye". If the stylist has WiFi, and no security, it is possible for someone to hack their system and find out you dye your hair. More seriously, credit card numbers might be vulnerable.

    This law proposal DOES NOT apply to Wi-Fi Hotspots, which are INTENTIONALLY left open with no security.

    Businesses, like dry cleaners, which offer free WiFi to customers but that WiFi is also connected to the business' PC would have to secure their PC with a firewall, while they could still leave the WiFi unsecured.

    So stop complaining. This is almost irrelevant to anyone who doesn't own a business, in Westchester County, that offers unfettered WiFi access, and where that WiFi network is also connected to sensitive customer data.

    The law makes sense, and just protects customer data from potentially careless business operators who don't understand the risks of the WiFi networks they installed. I, for one, like the idea.

    I imagine a lot of people complaining right now would be more angry if they found out they were the victims of ID Theft, caused in part by their dry cleaner's sloppy IT practices.

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