I’m not a hacker. I stay on top of technology as well as I can between all my other duties, but I don’t hack. I know “white hats” and “black hats” and I know there are legitimate hacking endeavors… but it’s not for me. I despise people who take joy in making work and causing headaches for others. It’s wrong. Period.
Now, with that said, I find it amazing how many wide-open networks are available all over the place. Just out of curiosity, I drove around the local town here, with my laptop open, searching for open networks. It took me less than ten minutes — even in this rural area to locate one that was completely open to surfing the net, downloading e-mails, viewing their network computers, shared files, printers, shared resources, etc.
And I must admit, from a couple hours of poking around, I discovered that real estate offices are probably one of the worst for this.
In one case, I could see the network, identify all the computers and even access the resources, files and printers in two of the computers. I couldn’t stand it, so I went into one of these local offices to tell them. I identified myself and asked who handled their computer services and networking. Not surprisingly, I was told a “friend” set them up.
When I told them that they were running “wide open” – I was told, “yeah, we know, but you can’t get past the main machine, you can’t get past our firewall.” I told them that, actually, I could – and that I not only had access to some of their files and their shared resources, but that I also had information about their network and the computers, including the names of the computers and how they were connected and that the computers were automatically assigned and that I was on their network at that moment.
He appeared suspicious … like I’d just handed him a crumpled up brown paper bag and said “Go ahead, open it, I dare you.– So I told him that I was doing a little survey and that real estate agencies, in particular, seemed to be at risk from wireless networks, and that I just thought he might want to know.
He thanked me, nodding and waited for me to leave. He never asked me how to secure it, he never asked me anything. So, I left.
I guess my point is, that there are so many people with laptops these days, and that some of them may also have malicious intent. If your network is wide open, close it.
It only takes a few moments to set an encryption key. And that makes it much more difficult to become a victim.
Now maybe you don’t care either, your files aren’t confidential and someone hacking into your systems and destroying your ability to use them properly is not a showstopper. Personally, for me, it would be. I run 128-bit encryption on mine. Call me paranoid.