The Cloud claims that private WiFi keys are not suitable for public hotspots, although users do not understand wireless risks

News by Dan Raywood

Wireless communication is intrinsically subject to threats and malicious security attacks, according to a leading WiFi provider.

Wireless communication is intrinsically subject to threats and malicious security attacks, according to a leading WiFi provider.

Following claims made by the BBC Watchdog programme that BT Openzone, The Cloud and T-Mobile are all susceptible to attack by hackers, possibly leaving users at risk of fraud, The Cloud claimed that it takes security very seriously and adheres to all of the current industry standards and protocols to run its networks.

In a response statement, The Cloud said: “The use of private keys, such as WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and more recently, the not entirely secure WPA (WiFi Protected Access) protocols, are not suitable for public hotspots particularly when using mobile and hand-held devices, as the users would have to obtain security credentials before being able to access the network. This would make accessing the internet beyond the skill levels of ordinary consumers.”

Commenting, Stuart Okin, managing director of Comsec Consulting UK, claimed that he tended to agree with many of the comments made by The Cloud. 

Okin said: “I have reached a point where I will not conduct any two-way communication (including corporate email) on a public wireless hotspot. You have to assume that someone is sniffing the hotspot, ready to intercept communication or worse that you maybe connecting to a fake hotspot!

“If I am out and about and have to communicate on email, I will always use virtual private network (VPN) through a 3G USB stick and even then I stack up the emails for a single burst before disconnecting. I will not conduct secure transactions on hotspots or a 3G stick. I wait until I am in the office or home.”

Looking to the future, Okin stated that he believed that hotspot providers will need to offer either VPN services themselves or use IPv6 based services, such as DirectAccess from Microsoft. Further, he claimed that eventually all providers of broadband will also need to offer VPN (or IPv6 IPSec services), with device authentication.

The Cloud said that it has put in place a number of features which allows safer internet access, including firewalling and network address translation, SSL encryption technology and unrestricted internet access and VPN pass-through.

It said in the statement: “Ultimately, when using an unencrypted wireless channel, the responsibility for securing the end-user device (laptop or smartphone) must rest with the end-user. Many WiFi hotspot users do not fully understand the risks associated with using open wireless networks, so it is imperative that users must also take precautions.”

It also claimed that it is ‘looking at different VPN technologies for future developments with some of our partners, however many existing solutions are device specific making it difficult for the WiFi operator to cover all eventualities'.

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