Pastor, secure thy router!

Recently, I found myself in the parking lot of a church with time on my hands. Booting up a laptop, I was surprised to find an unencrypted WiFi signal available.

Wireless access points (wireless routers) pose a wide range of potential security risks.

Was it a nearby home?

I climbed out of my vehicle, laptop in hand, and started walking around the neighborhood. I found several wireless access points, and all were configured to protect access using Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) or WiFi Protected Access (WPA). (You should no longer use WEP because it is too easily cracked.)

All access points were encrypted, that is, except one. One access point was configured to allow anyone to use the wireless connection. The signal became stronger the closer I walked to the administration office of the church.

Not uncommon

Since then, I’ve visited other churches. Several had wireless access points active, and a few were, like my first discovery, not protected.

To folks who engage in wardriving, this is not news.

Neighboring homes and businesses could also be using your internet connection, from surprisingly far away. It’s easy, just pick up a Cantenna online or build one.

What’s the big deal?

So what’s the big deal about having an unprotected wireless access point? In a word, your reputation. Once lost, trust is very difficult to regain.

The opportunity to engage in less than savory activities over a church (or school, or small business, or home) wireless connection might prove irresistible to some. Whether it is browsing web content you wouldn’t want your family to see, or intercepting credit card information passed during online purchases, the potential risk to your
organization is significant.

Knock, knock

If law enforcement officers come knocking on a door, it will most likely be the door of the entity owning and operating that wireless access point, not the person who was using your connection.

Substantial public embarassment and damage to your reputation can occur if you are accused of illegal or inappropriate activities. In the eyes of the law, you are innocent until proven guilty, but in the eyes of your community, you may be considered guilty until proven innocent. It takes only one incident to ruin your reputation.

PugetPro can help you secure your wireless access point and network. You can also find online guidance on securing your wireless network.

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One Response to Pastor, secure thy router!

  1. Tom says:

    Update: I had an opportunity to repeat this experiment and find that this particular church has implemented WPA encryption on their router. Well done!

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