[ISN] Secret Service patrolling for unsecured wireless networks

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Sun Sep 29 2002 - 23:19:18 PDT

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    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    By D. IAN HOPPER, AP Technology Writer 
    WASHINGTON (September 29, 2002 1:56 p.m. EDT) - Secret Service agents 
    are putting a high-tech twist on the idea of a cop walking the beat. 
    Using a laptop computer and an antenna fashioned from a Pringles 
    potato chip can, they are looking for security holes in wireless 
    networks in the nation's capital. 
    The agency best known for protecting the president and chasing down 
    counterfeiters has started addressing what it calls one of the most 
    overlooked threats to computer networks. 
    "Everybody wants wireless, it's real convenient," Special Agent Wayne 
    Peterson said. "Security has always been an afterthought." 
    The effort is part of a new government plan to build relationships 
    with businesses so that they will feel more comfortable reporting 
    hacking attempts to authorities. Recent anti-terrorism legislation 
    gave the FBI and Secret Service joint jurisdiction over electronic 
    Wireless networks are cheap; a small one can start at less than $200. 
    They make it easy for workers to wander around with their laptop or 
    handheld computers and for visiting employees with their own computers 
    to get on to the local office network. 
    These networks are becoming common in airports, universities, coffee 
    houses, businesses, homes and even some public squares. But they are 
    sold with no security measures, and protecting a wireless network from 
    hackers takes more knowledge than what network installation guides 
    typically offer. 
    Because of security concerns, the White House recently proposed 
    banning some wireless networks in federal agencies. Faced with 
    industry protests, the administration dropped the idea when it 
    released a draft version of its cybersecurity plan this month. 
    That has led some independent security researchers to drive - or even 
    use a private plane to fly - through cities to map networks. Those 
    maps, which are usually posted on the Internet, show where a person 
    can get a free Internet connection on a private network. 
    The Secret Service wants to let businesses know that their Internet 
    connections and private networks might be at risk. Companies informed 
    about security holes can reconfigure their networks to make them more 
    Peterson's tools are a laptop, a wireless network card and one of 
    three antennae mounted on his car. One is a small metal antenna; the 
    second is a large, white, 2-foot-tall tube; the third is a homemade 
    antenna made out of a Pringles can. They boost the reception of his 
    wireless network card, allowing the agent to point them in different 
    directions to get the best signal. 
    A Pringles can is ideal because of its shape - a long tube that lets 
    someone to point it at specific buildings - and its aluminum inner 
    lining. It acts like a satellite dish, collecting signals and bouncing 
    them to the receiver, which is then wired into a laptop. 
    Peterson recently drove down a major Washington street and found over 
    20 wireless networks, many of which had no security at all. Peterson 
    said his probes are part of good police work, like a patrolman driving 
    through a neighborhood. 
    "I feel it is part of crime prevention to knock on the door," Peterson 
    The act of "wardriving," a term taken from older "wardialing" programs 
    that called random telephone numbers looking for unlisted modems, has 
    become so prevalent that enthusiasts are using chalk marks on streets 
    and sidewalks to point out networks in public places. 
    Peterson said there has not been any reported "warchalking" in the 
    Washington area yet, but if one was found, agents would alert the 
    network owner. 
    Chris McFarland, head of the Secret Service's Electronic Crimes Task 
    Force, said his agents have begun evaluating computer security along 
    with other concerns when they scout out a place where the president or 
    other protected dignitary will go. 
    McFarland said, for example, that agents have had extensive 
    discussions with officials at George Washington Hospital about 
    improving its wireless network security. 
    While the agents plan to offer their expertise to anyone who asks, 
    they are focusing on places most important to their mission of 
    protecting public officials. The hospital is several blocks from the 
    White House and treated Vice President Dick Cheney during his heart 
    Agents also checked out computer systems at the Salt Lake City 
    Olympics, last year's Super Bowl and the World Bank in advance of 
    weekend protests. 
    "People can wreak havoc with these systems very easily," McFarland 
    said. "It's almost like triage." 
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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