A survey designed to identify as many unsecured wireless IT networks as possible within one hour, has uncovered potentially damaging vulnerabilities in many Bristol companies. The survey, conducted by security experts armed with just a laptop and antennae, reveals that of the staggering 407 networks identified, 51% were totally unsecure, leaving confidential and sensitive company data wide open to potential hackers.

Although Bristol companies appear to have widely embraced wireless technology, the survey demonstrates that the security implications have been largely ignored. It is taken for granted that normal “wired” IT networks are secured by firewalls, which work by ensuring access is only granted by the user entering a password, or a similar authentication process. The same rules should apply to wireless networks.

The survey, conducted by WhiteHat and Bluesocket highlights the need to raise awareness of data security systems and the ease in which unauthorised users can access and utilise wireless networks.

“A wireless network’s signal emanates like radio waves, therefore anybody close by can simply tune in and access the data on that network. A wireless gateway acts like a shield, bouncing off unwanted intruders and only allowing access to those authorised.” Explains Martin Cassidy, Vice President and General Manager EMEA for Bluesocket.

Jason Hart, Head of Security at WhiteHat, said “Despite the major security risks, Bristol businesses still appear to be leaving their wireless networks wide open to potential hackers. Directors and IT managers must start to understand that by doing so, they are severely compromising the integrity of their business and confidentiality of their data.” He added “The scary prospect for companies in Bristol is that a criminal could literally sit outside an office building with a laptop and access that company’s sensitive, even financial private data.”

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