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London businesses are letting the security of their wireless networks slip, leaving themselves exposed to drive-by hacking.

More than a third (36 per cent) of London's Wi-Fi networks are fundamentally insecure, RSA Security's fourth annual WLAN security survey reports. Last year the same survey found 15 per cent of networks were open to attack.

The survey found that many businesses in the capital had failed to take basic security precautions such as reconfiguring their default network settings. In London 26 per cent of access points still had default settings, making networks easier to attack.

Tim Pickard, an RSA veep, said: "Like a thief trying all the door handles in the car park hoping to get lucky, London's business centres are comparable to a hackers' playground. Our research shows that corporate wireless networks in London are growing at an annual rate of 62 per cent and 36 per cent of these businesses remain unprotected from attack."

Researchers found a similar situation in commercial cities in mainland Europe and the US. In all cities surveyed, more than a third of businesses wireless networks were found to be insecure - 36 per cent of businesses in London, 34 per cent in Frankfurt, 38 per cent in New York and 35 per cent in San Francisco.

The research, commissioned by RSA Security, and undertaken by independent information security specialist netSurity, sought to discover the extent to which companies' wireless networks 'leak' data traffic into the street. Using a laptop computers and free scanning software, researchers picked up information from company wireless networks by simply driving around.

Phil Cracknell, research author and netSurity CTO, said: "Accidental or intentional connection to a corporate network can bring with it a series of security issues including loss of confidential data and installation of malicious code. Fuelled by the availability and abundance of hotspots, mobile users now expect to find and know how to use a wireless network. The question is: whose network they will access and what they will do when they are there?" ®

Related stories

London Wi-Fi security better (but still not great)
WLAN security still dismal survey
Wi-Fi Alliance to beef up security
Hotspot paranoia: try to stay calm

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