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by Paul Kerstein

Australian Cities Exposed in War Driving Exercise

Nov 29, 20053 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

A state-by-state war driving exercise undertaken in October acrossAustralia’s capital cities identified the risk of corporate networkintrusions through weak Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN,).

It found an alarmingly high number of organizations are making their corporate networks easy targets for hackers.

The inaugural Altiris/SpectroTech 2005 IT Security Vulnerability Reportcovered the central business districts of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra,Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. As connecting to a corporatenetwork is illegal, SpectroTech used passive tools to blindly captureand collate the data.

“These results were a big surprise to us because everyone is at risk,”said SpectroTech principal consultant Mark Morgan. “You would beshocked if you heard the names of the major Australian organizationsthat we picked up.”

The results showed 18 percent of CBD based organizations are usingdefault configuration settings for their wireless access points.Melbourne was at the highest risk with 18 percent followed by Hobart(14 percent) and Canberra (13 percent).

“Either companies don’t have the knowledge and expertise to design orconfigure secure solutions or there are rogue devices running rampanton these networks,” Morgan said.

Rogue devices are intrusions on networks that are implemented eitherinternally or externally without permission from networkadministrators. The only way to ensure a network’s security is toperform audits and threat analyses in threat environments, said Morgan.

Laura Chappell, IT security expert and FBI consultant, said defaultsettings, which include usernames and passwords, are easily found onthe Internet.

“From here, a hacker can simply go in and gain access to your corporate network,” she said.

Nearly 30 percent of companies made no attempt to protect theirbusiness information at all with no encryption keys used to access thewireless network. “This means that clear-text communications over thewireless network can easily be intercepted and read,” Chappell said.

“Adelaide’s CBD-based companies are the biggest offenders at 36percent. This figure is extremely high. If confidential information iscrossing the wireless network in plain text, then that’s handingcorporate secrets to the competition on a platter.”

However, Morgan warned that encryption statistics can be misleading and do not necessarily indicate an insecure system.

“Just because data is encryption disabled does not necessarily meanthat it is insecure. Many companies do not need to be concerned withthe confidentiality of the data they send,” he said.

Regardless of the needs of corporate encryption, the report found thatan estimated 70 percent of companies within the CBD of all majorAustralian cities rely on the rudimentary security mechanism, WiredEquivalent Privacy (WEP) to provide authentication and encryption.

Developed as an industry standard and used primarily for encryption,WEP is riddled with flaws and can be cracked in a matter of secondssaid Morgan.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about the inherent technology inwireless networks,” Morgan said. “Because it’s a rapid growthtechnology, a lot of people sell but few people focus on the design,implementation and support elements.”

Only 13 percent of companies were found to be using Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), an enhanced version of WEP.

“It all comes down to education. The report shows that the reliance ondefault configurations and outdated industry standards is leavingcorporate networks wide open for attack,” Morgan said.

Spectrotech plan to host a national road show early next year tore-educate CIOs and network administrators on the dangers of insecurenetworks. The vendor neutral consultancy group will provide livehacking demonstrations and offer security solutions from its partners.

By Sandra Rossi – Computerworld Today (Australia) (Additional reporting by Mitchell Bingemann.)