Wireless Network Security

Laptops, tablets, and smart phones are a few examples of common devices that are capable of wireless communications. These devices communicate by sending information back and forth to a wireless access point. While this data is being sent between the device and the access point, it can potentially be intercepted and read by unauthorized users. Unauthorized users can also utilize unsecured wireless networks outside the scope of the owner’s wishes. This can include using unsecured wireless signals for criminal activity.
An example of a potential issue regarding wireless security could result from using publicly accessible wireless networks. Many airports, restaurants, and hotels have free publicly available wireless networks. If a user is connected to one of the networks to conduct online banking tasks, an attacker could potentially see the information necessary to access the associated bank accounts.
Another example could result from an unsecured wireless network at home. An unauthorized user could connect to an unsecured wireless network for criminal activity. This could be neighbors, but could also include anyone capable of getting close enough to access the network. Even someone in a car parked in front of the house could use an unsecured network for criminal activity. If law enforcement began investigating the activity, they would notice the traffic coming from the wireless network owner, which could lead to complications identifying the correct offender.
What can I do to protect myself?
Users of wireless networks should ensure their communications are secured. Secured wireless networks encrypt the communications between the wireless devices and the wireless access point to prevent eavesdropping. This also helps to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the network. The OSU IT Information Security Office recommends the use of strong passwords for protected wireless signals. For information related to securing wireless connections, please choose the most applicable scenario below.

  • Wireless Security on OSU Campus OSU provides a secured wireless network for students (SSID: OSUSTUDENT), and one for staff and faculty members (SSID:OSUSTAFF). Users needing instructions to connect to these networks should refer to the provided links. Connect to OSUSTUDENT Connect to OSUSTAFF
  • Wireless Security at Home Users hosting their own wireless network can ensure their network is secured by checking their wireless router. These devices can vary based on their make and model, so users will need to check with their device manufactures for specific instructions. OSU IT Security recommends the use of the Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) security protocol.
  • Wireless Security in Public Users connecting to a public wireless network should refrain from sending sensitive information over these networks. This includes OSU business documents, and personal information (including credit card and social security numbers). Users needing to send this information should relocate, and connect to a secured network before sending.