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National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC) - Fact Sheets - Wireless Networking

Wireless Networking

Background

 

What is it?

A wireless network is one that uses radio signals rather than direct cable connections to exchange information.

How does it work?

  • Wireless networks are comprised of two main components: an access point (for example, a router broadcasting a signal) and a receiver (for example, a wireless card for a personal computer or laptop). An access point converts the wired Ethernet signals to radio frequencies. The receiver (most commonly a wireless card in a PC or laptop) is then used to communicate back and forth with the access point to interact with the rest of the network.
  • Wireless networking uses radio frequency signals to connect all the components of the network.
  • The most common type of wireless technology is called Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi). Technically Wi-Fi is used to describe a network operating within the bounds of the 802.11 standard.
  • A wireless network is referred to as a Service Set Identifier (SSID). The SSID is used to identify the network when many networks are in place.

A Closer Look

Wireless communication offers many benefits to its users such as portability and flexibility, increased productivity, and lower installation costs. However there are security issues associated with wireless technology, one of the most significant challenges is that access to your network is not limited to those with a physical connection. Anyone with a wireless card can see the traffic moving across your wireless network unless your network is secured with encryption technology. Many different peripherals can be connected to a wireless network:

  • Modem : A device that allows computers to transmit and receive data over cable or telephone lines.
  • Wireless Router : A wireless router performs three tasks simultaneously. First the wireless access point allows you to connect wireless B or G devices to the network. Second, it acts as a switch to connect your wired Ethernet devices to your network. Finally, the router feature ties it all together and lets your network share an Internet connection.
  • Wireless Media Adapter : This device connects your TV (if supported by the TV) to the wireless network which allows you to view digital photos and play music files from a computer. You can also get guide updates and use remote scheduling over a high-speed Internet connection.
  • Wireless Game Adapter : A wireless game adapter connects your gaming system to your wireless network.
  • Wireless Print Server : This device allows you to connect both Universal Serial Bus (USB) and parallel printers to your network.
  • Network Storage Link : The network storage link allows you to connect USB hard drives directly to your network. You can connect up to two stand-alone USB drives and access them from anywhere on your network. The network storage link is of particular concern to law enforcement as it provides the user with the capability to store material in a separate physical location from the computer. The device can be stored in an attic, the ceiling, or an off-site location provided the user has remote access. To illustrate further, it is possible for an individual to download child sexual abuse images to a network storage link located at his/her parent’s house. The offender can then view the illegal material knowing that the device on which the material is stored is not likely to be detected or found.
  • Wireless Internet Video Camera : This device allows for the sending of live video through the Internet to a Web browser anywhere in the world. While it is connected to your home network, the video can be viewed from any personal computer in its range. Although the streaming video is secure behind your firewall, opening the appropriate ports on the router make it easily accessible to the outside world.
  • Wireless Desktop PC Card (PCI) : This card is a wireless network adapter that is installed in a desktop in an available PCI slot, and is used to establish a network connection.
  • Wireless Laptop PC Card (PCMCIA) : This card is designed to slide into the PC card slot found in most notebook computers, and is used to establish a network connection.
  • Wireless USB Adapter : This is a hardware device that acts as a receiver of the radio frequencies; it plugs into a USB port on a computer and is used to establish a network connection.

Implications for Law Enforcement

Armed with a computer, a wireless network card, an antenna, and software that can be downloaded free of charge from the Internet, a hacker could potentially view the data on your computer and/or use your network to download and/or transmit child sexual abuse images. This process is referred to as wardriving and is used by hackers throughout the world to identify wireless networks that are not secure. As wireless networks operate by emitting radio waves up to distances of 100 yards, it is possible for someone to log onto an unsecured network within a matter of minutes as signals that pass through the air are easier to intercept than those that pass through cables. According to research performed by the WorldWide WarDrive, over 60% of approximately 228,537 access points found throughout the world were insecure (http://www.worldwidewardrive.org/side.html).

In addition to hacking into home networks, Wi-Fi access points, known as hotspots located in cafés, hotels, and airports, are also targeted by hackers as the security of these networks is often non-existent which allows material to be intercepted. A hotspot is a device that is hardwired into the Internet that provides access to roughly 100 computers at one time. With many computers sharing the same network connection, it is not difficult for an individual to identify computers that are not secure and use their Internet connection for illegal purposes.

Another danger associated with wireless networking is that if someone gains access to your system or even “piggybacks” off your Internet connection, you could be held liable for their actions as your Internet Protocol (IP) address would be identified while their IP address would be untraceable. Incidents of this nature have occurred in Canada resulting in various crimes ranging from accessing and distributing child pornography to telecommunications theft.

Securing a Wireless Network

There are several steps you can take to increase the security of your wireless network.

  • Ensure that all user accounts are password protected.
  • Disable identifier broadcasting to prevent hackers from discovering that you have a wireless network.
  • Use either Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) or Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) to encrypt your data thereby only allowing intended recipients to read it.
  • Personal firewall and anti-virus software should also be installed on your computer and should also be kept up to date as new viruses are constantly identified.

"A hacker can use an insecure wireless network to spy on you, steal files off your hard drive, plant files onto your hard drive, or even steal Internet access” (Posey 2005). Although no wireless network can be completely secure, it is important to take the necessary steps to secure your wireless network as it will reduce the probability that a hacker will compromise your machine as it would be easier for him/her to move on to a computer that has little or no security.

Terms

Hacker : A hacker is a person intensely interested in the mysterious workings of any computer operating system. Hackers are programmers who have advanced knowledge of operating systems and programming languages. They may know of holes within systems and the reasons for such holes. Hackers constantly seek further knowledge, freely share what they have discovered, and rarely intentionally damage data.

TCP : Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) enables two hosts to establish a connection and exchange streams of data. TCP guarantees delivery of data and also guarantees that packets will be delivered in the same order in which they were sent.

UDP : User Datagram Protocol (UDP) provides very few error recovery services, offering instead a direct way to send and receive datagrams over an IP network. It is used primarily for broadcasting messages over a network.

References

Bradley, Tony. (2005). Wireless Network Security for the Home. http://netsecurity.about.com/cs/wireless/a/aa112203_2.htm

Brain, Marshall . (2005). How WiFi Works. http://computer.howstuffworks.com/wireless-network.htm

Cunningham, Lisa. (2004). “Criminals Hijack Wireless Internet Connections.” The i-SAFE Times issue 21. http://www.isafe.org.

Dizikes, Peter. (2005). Wi-Fi Woes. http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/dynamic/privacy-investigation-wireless-networks.cfm

Griffith, Eric. (2004). The Five Deadly Dangers of Unsecured Wireless Networks. http://www.Lucid Link.com/media/pdf_autogen/the_five_deadly_dangers.pdf

Miller, Darren, W. (2005). Road Warrior at Risk: The Dangers of Ad-Hoc Wireless Networking. http://www.circleid.com/article/1077_0_1_0_C/

Posey, Brien. (2005). Wireless Network Security for the Home. http://www.windowsecurity.com/articles/Wireless-Network-Security-Home.html

Shim, Richard. (2003). Canadian Arrest Highlights the Dangers of Wi-Fi. http://insight.zdnet.co.uk/communications/wireless/o,39020430,39118205,00.htm

http://www.whtvcable.com/fasttrack/#what

http://cis.poly.edu/~ross/papers/UnderstandingKaZaA.pdf

http://worldwidewardrive.org/side.html

http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/s/social_engineering.html

Dumpster Diving

http://www.allthingsfrugal.com/dumpster.htm

-http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/1/29/215523/088

Hackers vs Crackers

http://www.textfiles.com/uploads/cracker.txt

Social Engineering

http://www.securityfocus.com/infocus/1527

TCP & UDP

www.webopedia.com

Produced by:
The National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre
Strategic and Operations Support Services
Research and Development Section