Terrorist threat shuts down Moscow wireless network

The Moscow underground saw a disruption of mobile phone services this week after several warnings of possible terrorist attacks were issued from the country's security services.

Russian mobile carriers MTS, VimpelCom and Megafon suspended services in Moscow's underground railway system, but declined to explain why. However, company representatives unofficially stated that the move was connected to a possible terrorist threat.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

Most home WiFi networks are still horribly insecure

Well, we've talked about this before, and here's yet another story that mentions how grotesquely inadequate security is on most home wireless computer networks. A study in home WiFi networks in Indianapolis found that a staggering 46 percent of the networks tested did not have any form of encryption turned on. That's almost half -- ripe for the hacking and taking.

This is a serious problem, one that is probably being under-reported. If identity theft was an issue before, it could explode by drive-by WiFi hackers to say the least. Manufacturers -- why of why can't you make it easier to -- by default -- have a mandatory wizard upon router setup that makes WEP, or better yet, WPA encryption, part of the required router setup?

It's true that customers should be responsible for setting this up, but with the unreal amount of techno-babble in most HTML-based home router setups I've seen, it's no wonder customers don't know how to setup WiFi security on their routers.

Another example of why you need to secure your wireless network

We've talked here many times about how folks should take every step necessary to protect their own home wireless networks from predators and freeloaders who will steal your personal information outright or use your network to do some unsavory things. Consider the story of two Florida woman whose wireless network was hacked into by someone at a local community college and was using their access to subscribe to porn sites. Pretty embarassing and unnerving, don't you think?

The linked story has a few more tips to help you keep your wireless network secure from intrusion. Obviously, there's no way you can be totally protected 100% of the time, but the point is that if you take just a few steps, the chances of being hacked will diminsh greatly.

New Jersey issues subpoensas to companies over sharing of calling records with NSA

The controversy over the sharing of calling records by phone companies with the National Security Agency (NSA) has reached a new high (or low, depending on your perspective) with the announcement that the state of New Jersey has issued subpoenas to AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Sprint Nextel, and Cingular Wireless to see if they violated the state's consumer protectiong laws by sharing information with the NSA.

The NSA has instituted a strategy to track possible terrorist activities by compiling phone records of people they deem "suspicious," but critics say this program is ripe for abuse and that innocent people could have their cellular and landline phone activity, as well as their general rights to privacy, scrutinized without clear probable cause.

Obviously, this issue has been debated back and forth, and it'll be interesting to see if the federal and various state governments can come to a consensus as to how this program can proceed with it being abused.

TWR's Top 5

It's been another busy week for us at The Wireless Report, so here are five stories that will demonstrate our "sweat equity" to you. Enjoy!

  1. The Wireless Report Podcast -- June 1, 2006
    We are pleased to bring you the fifth installment of The Wireless Report Podcast. We'll be talking about the upcoming FCC wireless auctions (some of the most important auctions to come along in quite some time), North Dakota being the first state to have more wireless telephone numbers than landline telephone numbers, the deal with E911 and why the major wireless carriers still have not implemented this technology -- and finally, we'll cover the need for wireless connectivity options for stereo and home theater equipment.
  2. Is your business cellphone your main business communications device?
    Most businesspeople rely on their wireless phones to carry out all kinds of business -- whether inside or outside the office sometimes. IDC reports that  telecom managers inside companies believe 28% of employees are using mobile phones as the main business conduit for daily business.
  3. JetBlue wins wireless license auction bid to offer in-flight WiFi
    The offering of WiFi services to passengers while in-flight is still not a given, but if the FAA and FCC ever come to some sort of consensus on the idea, then look for JetBlue Airways to quickly become one of the market leaders in this area.
  4. The rogue WiFi hotspot -- dangers abound
    With all the talk about the dangers of WiFi security, you'd think that information managers would have battle plans directly inside their war chest for employees. It's amazing that this article mentions that almost up to 25 percent of business WiFi networks in the London area of the UK were unsecured. Not home WiFi networks, but business networks.
  5. Chicago issues wireless network RFP
    Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced today that the city has issued a RFP for bids to develop and deploy a wireless network. As would be expected, a large number of responses are expected within the next few months. The mayor also announced the formation of a wireless Internet advisory council that will hold public hearings on the network as well as examine RFP responses.

TWR's Top 5

As we charge into the Memorial Day weekend and right into the glorious summer season, here are five stories from the past week that will get your juices flowing. Enjoy!

  1. The Wireless Report Podcast -- May 24, 2006
    We are pleased to bring you the fourth installment of The Wireless Report Podcast. We'll be talking about all the recent developments in citywide WiFi -- including talking about Phoenix, Philadelphia and New York City. Additionally, we'll cover New York City's "Central Park" WiFi experiment -- and we'll cover the recent National Security Agency (NSA) situation regarding possible wiretap illegalities, and how this could encroach into wireless carriers here in the U.S. -- but we sure hope not.
  2. EarthLink wins approval to build wireless network in New Orleans
    The rebuilding of New Orleans continues as EarthLink has won approval from the City Council to build a wireless network within a 15-square-mile area. As with similar networks they are building in cities such as Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Anaheim, the network will have a free service and a paid service tier. The free service will be available for a limited time at speeds up to 300kbs, and the paid service will offer speeds up to 1 mpbs.
  3. Will customers buy -- and watch -- mobile TV?
    We've said it before -- for mobile television to take off, there must be a unified standard and the cost must be priced right. Looking at the current situation, we're not even close. With MediaFLO and DVB-H standing out as the two standards, and will many mobile television standards sitting around waiting for business, when will the industry get it together and make things easier than this?
  4. Secure your home wireless network or else this will happen to you
    We've warned you before about the perils of wireless signal piggybacking and how if you do have a home wireless network, you should take every step necessary to protect it from being hacked by "piggybackers" aka burglars. Here's another example of why you should.
  5. Egad! Wireless complaints dropped in first quarter of 2006
    We generally hear about the rise in complaints against the wireless companies -- particularly against the top players like Cingular and Verizon Wireless (probably because they are easy targets). But in the first quarter of this year, wireless complaints and inquiries both dropped from the fourth quarter of 2005.

Secure your home wireless network or else this will happen to you

We've warned you before about the perils of wireless signal piggybacking and how if you do have a home wireless network, you should take every step necessary to protect it from being hacked by "piggybackers" aka burglars. Here's another example of why you should.

A New York State man is being held by police and is being accused if using his neighbor's home wireless network to harass his ex-wife.

Apparently, after his wife kicked him out of the house, he began sending her co-workers e-mails from a stolen rented laptop while using his neighbor's wireless network without permission. Of course, this led to an investigation that most likely involved the person who rented the laptop (as well as the company who rented it) to the neighbor who's network was hacked into and so on and so on.

So there you have it. The moral of the story is that if you don't protect your wireless network, you'll end up in an embarrassing situation such as this one. Need any more proof?

FCC gets nod to look at the NSA wiretap program

It looks like our friends over at the FCC have their hands full -- they are trying to be fair and implement bidding rules in the upcoming wireless auctions on June 29th and now its being asked to determine whether laws were broken or not in the NSA wiretapping scandal currently underway in the Bush administration.

The FCC has been apparently asked to look at the specifics of the wiretap activities and see whether or not they were in violation of Section 222 of the Communications Act, which safeguards the privacy of communications used by private citizens. One thing is for sure -- this NSA wiretap situation is sure to get beefier and more visible from here on out.

Parents rally against NYC schools ban on cellphones

There was a rally at a New York City Council hearing yesterday by parents who feel that the policy that bans kids from bringing their cellphones into school and having them confiscated is unwise and keeps moms and dads from staying in touch with their children.

School administrators say the cellphones are distractions that will keep students from focusing on their schoolwork, but parents and their advocates say it's an issue of public safety because the devices are the only way for working parents to keep tabs on their kids during the day.

However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is pretty adamant about the ban, says the bringing of cellphones into schools could also be a security risk, which is a bit of a stretch to say the least.

Whatever happened to teachers employing a little discipline in their classrooms and just telling their students to turn off their cellphones and put them away during class? If they don't follow the rules, THEN you confiscate the phone until the end of the day. Doesn't seem that difficult of a solution, does it?

Privacy concerns raised regarding proposed Silicon Valley wireless network

The Northern California chapter of the ACLU, along with other privacy advocate groups, recently sent a letter expressing concerns over privacy issues to the Joint Venture/Smart Valley Initiative that is seeking to develop and deploy a wireless network to over 30 municipalities in Silicon Valley.

At the heart of the issue is that since the network is expected to be a free one, it will be funded by advertising and sponsorship programs, so in order for these companies to recoup their costs, they need to market their goods and services to the users. To do that, they need to be able to send them information, and that requires the gathering of user information, which means capturing registration data.

Some of the questions raised by the letter writers include whether users will be tracked from session to session, and if they will be made aware of how their personal information will be used.

Privacy advocates tend to overreact to things like this, especially since this is all so new and they are expecting the worst. Most internet users are savvy enough these days that they will take every step necessary to guard their personal information from being co-opted. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will protect yourself entirely from any attacks, but just doing a few simple tasks will go a long way.

NYC to test wireless emergency communications network

Although New York City has yet to make any real inroads in the development of a citywide wireless network for its residents, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did announce today that the city is seeking to establish a Citywide Mobile Wireless Network (CMWN) designed specifically for emergency responders. As we all remember, during the tragic events of 9/11, emergency communications broke down as fire and police personnel were attempting to evacuate and rescure people who were trapped in the burning Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

According to the Mayor's office, the network will give the city's fire and police departments the ability to access and download city maps, building plans, and federal and state counter-terrorism and crime databases while in the field, which is the very type of platform these departments need. A six-month pilot program is scheduled to take place between two competing companies--Northrop Grumman and Motorola--to judge whose platform will work best for the city.

This is an incredibly important development for New York City and it is essential that one of these platforms proves successful in testing. For any city, both big and small, the ability for emergency personnel to communicate while on the go should be a top priority.

Webcast series focuses on wireless LAN security

With security increasingly becoming of importance when it comes to enterprise wireless networks, a series of webcasts/podcasts is now available on SearchNetworking.com that may help CIOs and CTOs understand all of the issues involved.

The Wireless Security Lunchtime Learning Series focuses on securing wireless networks by examining:

  • How to identify and understand wireless threats
  • Alternative methods in defending wireless attacks
  • How to save your company time and money while implementing a wireless defense strategy

Each of the webcasts/podcasts run about 15-20 minutes in length, and are enhanced with a series of tips that will help listeners apply what they have learned.

TWR's Top 5

It's been another wild and wooly week here at the home office. Submitted for your approval are the five stories that made things interesting around these parts over the past seven days. Enjoy!

  1. Let New Orleans build a wireless network without outside interference!
    I am eagerly looking forward to going to New Orleans. It's a city filled with history and culture, and I can't wait to walk up and down Bourbon Street. And, as "weird" as this sounds, I am looking forward to spending money down there, such as buying gifts for my wife and daughter and dining in some of the restaurants. I figure that, in my small way, I am helping New Orleans get back on its feet after the horror of Hurricane Katrina. I only wish that companies like BellSouth Corporation and Cox Communications would follow that same path.
  2. Don't forget to adopt and deploy that E911 wireless system
    The FCC is proposing a meaty $750,000 fine for Dobson Communications for failing to deploy an enhanced 911 system on its wireless network in a timely manner. While we're not sure what "timely" means, its possible that a few years from the initial asking period has probably elapsed -- indeed, the Phase I completion deadline was in 1998.
  3. Law requiring businesses to secure their wireless networks to take effect in Westchester County
    There's a proposal under consideration in New York's Westchester County that will require local businesses to secure their wireless networks to prevent identity theft and other types of hacking from unauthorized users.
  4. So, where is mobile television headed?
    We've posted quite a few times recently about the quandary that seems to surround what has become known as "mobile television". Now, this can take many forms from the customer's eyes -- it can mean:
    * Watching television clips while mobile using your mobile phone device or handset
    * Watching real-time, streaming television from multiple sources -- on demand -- anytime you wish using your mobile device
    * Watching pre-recorded television and/or video downloaded from your wireless device directly, or transferred from a PC
  5. Whatever happened to Wireless 411?
    If you remember back about a year to 18 months ago, there was a raging controversy over whether the establishment of a "wireless 411" directory would impose on the privacy of cellphone users.

Another plea for securing your own wireless network

Here's another story on how easy it is for hackers to steal vital information from any unsecured wireless network. The securing of these networks is becoming a cottage industry, and companies are charging big bucks to assist companies in locking hackers out from enterprise networks.

Of course, the everyday person can't afford to pay those kind of prices to have a consultant come in and secure a home wireless network, so it goes without saying that user education is essential. You've got to take the time to learn how to secure your network, or your most sensitive information will be open for the piggybackers to see and steal.

The morale of the story is that if it can be done in Oshkosh, it can be done anywhere.

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