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Open to attack, claims report

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Federal agencies in the US are leaving their wireless networks open to attack by not implementing key security measures, according to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Tuesday.

Wireless networks – also known as Wi-Fi or Wireless Local Area Networks or WLANs – can fall victim to malicious hacking techniques, from eavesdropping on company or agency secrets to computer network disruption and the launching of denial of service attacks.

Security is therefore a key issue when using a wireless network.

Despite this, the report found that nine agencies out of the 24 looked at by the GAO had not issued policies on wireless networks; 13 had not established requirements for setting up the networks in a secure way; 18 had no provision for training in wireless security; and the majority were not able to properly monitor their networks.

Of the six agencies physically tested by the GAO, “we were able to detect wireless networks at each of the agencies from outside of their facilities,” says the report.

“Wireless-enabled devices were operating with insecure configurations at all six of the agencies,” it explains. “For example, in one agency we found over 90 laptops that were not configured appropriately.”

The GAO found unauthorised wireless activity, which had not been detected by monitoring programs, at each agency.

The GAO has therefore recommended that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget instruct agencies to ensure that they address wireless network security in their information security programs.

© Pinsent Masons 2000 - 2005

See: GAO report (31-page PDF)

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