September 17, 2008

Don’t Panic, Just Instal Safeguards: Experts


MUMBAI: Wi-Fi is suddenly not so cool any more.

Mumbai's Netizens, who would take pride in being Wi-Fi-enabled till Saturday evening, are now having second thoughts on going wireless on the net. The back-to-back hackings - first into Ken Haywood's computer and then into Manohar Kamath's system - have induced many of them to go back to the last-generation broadband cable, say experts.

Thane's Jupiter Hospital planned to instal Wi-Fi for its library for postgraduate students. "But our Hyderabad-based consultants have asked us not to go ahead with it in view of the recent hacking incidents," hospital CEO Ajay Thakkar said on Monday.

But experts say you don't need to press the panic button. Net guru Vijay Mukhi proper procedures have to be followed to make the system safer. "I agree Wi-Fi has a lot of flaws that can be used by hackers or terrorists. But even the hardcore hacker can be kept away if certain simple rules are followed," he said.

Mukhi and other Internet experts are now collaborating with the state police to arrange special workshops on "Wi-Fi security".

"We plan to make Wi-Fi security workshops mandatory during cyber safety weeks," an official said. The first such elaborate workshop will be conducted at the Thane cyber cell on 19 September.

"Many Wi-Fi users instal a WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), a security feature which can be easily hacked. I can crack passwords and security features on WEP in 10 minutes and recommend users switch over to WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), a wireless security with greater protection," Mukhi said.

Every laptop or computer is also known by a number (technically called MAC address). "The MAC address of every computer in the office/home should be fed to the Wi-Fi router so that it will recognise only these machines and eliminate any other intruder machine/laptop/palmtop or mobile," he added.

Wireless systems expert Chandrakant Kolhe said every computer needed to be password-protected in a Wi-Fi environment. "One should instal and run a personal firewall software on each computer connected to the router," he said, adding: "User names and passwords should be changed periodically."

Passwords should be 20 characters long and a long sentence one could remember could be an ideal password. "I know of my friends having passwords like 'idontlikemywife' or 'ipraythisisnothacked'. Passwords are asked for in WPA-enabled systems," Mukhi said.

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