Wireless Pitfalls

By Dani Magestro
Updated: August 31, 2012

Wireless Pitfalls

Wireless solutions are quickly becoming more common in today's IT architecture, and are now considered a necessity in that realm. If you take a step back and think about the invention of something as simple as WiFi, people were ecstatic to get rid of the Ethernet cable they used to connect to the internet. Wireless capabilities have been one of the greatest technology advances in history but with this great invention came the addition of more ways to intrude on peoples' networks. When implementing wireless solutions within your enterprise there are a few things you need to keep in mind in order to avoid the pitfalls.

The most widely known pitfall would be increased risk of security breaches. While wireless hardware security has grown stronger over the years so has the drive and determination of the person on the other end of the breach. Hackers and security compromisers have literally made security breaches their job, they make money from it. Anytime they can steal something lucrative they intricately work to preserve and repeat the process so they can keep on going. Of course there are also hackers who just love to see how far they can take things and sometimes your data is just a fun reason to attempt to break in.

Either way, security concerns are one of the biggest reasons you should put all you have into your wireless planning phase. Any hole or leak can literally put you out of business. Be sure every leg of your wireless hardware fleet is secured and no backdoors exist. This goes for everything from your internal wireless networks to your mobile apps for outside sales people. Having a strong team of knowledgeable IT gatekeepers can really go a long way.  In terms of security just putting a gate up isn’t enough, 24/7 monitoring is necessary as is using other proactive tools such as penetration testing.

Penetration testing is something a lot of companies take for granted until forced to do so by looming regulations. Penetration testing is a clear cut choice when trying to see where your networks weaknesses are and in trying to figure out where any possible leaks may be. If you have the opportunity to budget for this type of testing it won’t let you down. It is even a feasible option for small budgets so it’s worth at least looking into. Just be sure to use a reputable vendor and keep your entire network in sight. You never know where your weaknesses are until it’s really too late.

Sometimes the easiest security fixes can save you the most hassle such as deploying wireless routers without encryption. It only takes a few moments to load the settings on the wireless router and lock it down. Leaving the network unlocked can be a novice mistake. This careless mistake can cost you a lot. Even with the best group policies, an open network is like leaving your car unlocked with the keys in it. For example, a popular gym left its WIFI network open and at one point it was discovered that many of the wireless devices their patrons used were connecting to the same network as their POS system. Imagine their administrator's surprise when he did a random scan and saw hardware named Steve D's iPod in his hardware list. . Once this has happened there is no way of knowing if a breach has already occurred. The only solution is a lockdown, changing all codes and an audit to see fi any critical information like customer records or finaincial information was accessed. The solution is straightforward – it is easy to lock wireless systems down. On bigger networks, firewalls and intrusion detection can serve similar and even more purposes.

Another pitfall you should consider when thinking about implementing a wireless solution is productivity. It’s easy to assume that productivity will increase when implementing a wireless solution and in most cases that is true.  Productivity should increase as the employees will have a near continuous connection to your network and the internet. Although some employees can be distracted if the device is not locked down. There are some limitations when it comes to being able to lockdown devices especially on tablets and smartphones but it can be done.

The last wireless pitfall you should note is cost. Most wireless solutions include a basic hardware cost, the implementation cost and the maintenance or subscription cost. Planning for future costs in addition to the initial costs can wear thin. Vendors are subject to upping their rates each year and technology usually updates every 2-3 years so you may have to replace the hardware within that period as well.  Not to mention if you outgrow your wireless solutions and need to expand. Sometimes all the planning in the world can’t foresee these types of changes.

Going wireless no matter how small or involved can definitely lead your company in the right direction. Taking some things into consideration, however, will help keep our enterprise safe, productive and as within budget as possible.

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