If you have wireless network access, in your home or office, you need to secure it. Period. We’ve been harping on our clients and trying to pass that message on for years. From the earliest era of Wireless, when doing security settings was chaotic and difficult to understand, we have pushed our users to be sure their home and office wireless is secured as much as possible. Today, if you get a new router, it includes easy to setup instructions for securing your network. Staples stores are even offering DLink routers preconfigured!
It’s amazing, however, how many people still have not secured their wireless access. Wireless routers are so common in homes and workplaces, people buy them from any big box store and set them up without taking the easy steps that will help prevent intrusion into their systems. Most often when we discuss this issue, we are worried about criminals and pirates trying to get your personal information for their own use.
We don’t normally think of Google as being a threat.
A recent report from Canada’s provacy commissioner has taken aim at Google’s StreetView service for a huge privacy violation involving unsecured wireless connections. If you don’t know what StreetView is, head to http://www.google.com/intl/en_us/help/maps/streetview/ and enter in your own address. Chances are good that one of Google’s little cars with the 360 degree cameras has already mapped out your street and taken some surprising pictures of homes and businesses.
What most people aren’t aware of though is that StreetView was also looking to map something other than just pictures of homes and business and attractions. It was also looking for WIFI hotspots to track down for anyone seeking to use them. In theory, this was go identify libraries, coffee shops, and stores that offer this to their clients. Unfortunately, it also grabbed the information for any home or business based wireless setup that wasn’t secured with a code or passphrase.
Now google did not include these homes and businesses in their searches. You won’t find an icon beside your house saying “here pirates! open WIFI!”. However, the scans did record information that was sent to Google which is even more disturbing.
According to the privacy commisioner, Google inadvertently grabbed user names, computer settings, browsing sessions and even some passwords for systems and accounts. Google has said none of this information will be used and will not be retained, and that it was not gathered on purpose. Unfortunately, we have take Google at their word on this one, but the incident has caught the eye of privacy watchdogs all over the world.
Sometimes it isn’t the people trying to invade you on purpose that you have to worry about, sometimes its the inadventent invasions that can be just as dangerous.
Take a few minutes if you have wireless in your house or office and check to see how secure you are. Even the lowest level of security would prevent this kind of accidental intrusion, but there is much more you can do.
Got questions? Email us and we’ll help you out.