Sound off: Why worry about wireless?

Wireless security threats are overhyped and easily stopped, says a Computerworld editor

Of course, the last time I espoused these thoughts, in a security newsletter, the news broke that the massive TJX data breach happened through a wireless hack. (Ouch! Just my luck.) And boy, did readers let me know about it.

OK, $256 million (or whatever the TJX figure is now) is nothing to sneeze at. But someone at TJX was clearly asleep at the wheel. Obviously they didn't read Computerworld. In fact, according to a May 5 article in The Wall Street Journal, "The US$17.4-billion retailer's wireless network had less security than many people have on their home networks, and for 18 months the company ... had no idea what was going on."

So I'll give you that one -- chalked up to sheer stupidity. And the BJ's hack of a few years ago was another wireless attack that made great headlines. Of course there have been a few high-profile cases of wireless break-ins. Plane crashes make news, too, but are you avoiding air travel because of them?

More serious threats

Rather than point to a few well-publicized wireless intrusions, just look at all the data breaches caused by lost or stolen laptops. Or rogue personal devices. Or Trojans or bots or customer record sheets used as newspaper wrapping, which actually happened last year.

And take a look at the "chronology of data breaches" maintained by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and search for wireless. You won't find many hits.

There are some people who agree with me. Check out this passage about wireless security from CSO magazine, one of our sister sites:

"Most of the things you'll need to do [for security] will come from the vendor. It's just a question of turning it on," adds Selby. Last year, Gartner went so far as to say that Wi-Fi was one of the most overhyped IT security threats.

If it was overhyped in 2005, what is it now?

It's a page-view-generating, show-the-CEO- what-we've-done, still-sexy-for-some-reason, hot-button, Slashdot/Digg-bait -- that's what it is. It's dead.

But just to be safe, you'd better go read Preston's article right now.

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David Ramel

Computerworld (US)
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