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Wireless technology involves the transmission of information over a certain distance without the requirement of the commonly used conductors such as cables. Wireless technology is an innovation that has changed various aspects of human life. As far as communication is concerned, wireless technology can be said to have revolutionized communication. Among the advantages of wireless communication is the quick conveyance of messages, flexibility in the points of connection to networks, the need for fewer wires and other physical equipment that are needed for the traditional form of connectivity. Along with these advantages, a wireless network also costs less to maintain as there is no cost associated with the accessories as in case of wired networks.
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“Wireless networking provides many advantages, but it also coupled with new security threats and alters the organization’s overall information security risk profile” (Choi, Robles, Hong, & Kim, 2008, p. 77). It is important for the risks that are associated with the use of wireless technologies to be determined. Furthermore, take into account that if the problem of security of wireless technologies is not addressed, then there is a high possibility that the technology might end up doing more harm in the lives of the users than anyone would be able to notice. Therefore, the security of wireless technologies should be considered to be a problem for there to be any form of action to be taken. The nature of the security threats that are associated with the use of wireless technologies need to be attended in order to make wireless networks a feasible and reliable platform for data sharing.
Wireless network security is one of the main concerns since wireless networks strengthened their roots in the tech world and issues of personal information theft arose. Every wireless network has its security risks (Frenzel, 2003). Stopping intruders from accessing a wireless network is one of main tasks in a wireless network (Kelley, 2003). The reason is that wireless networks are more prone to security threats as compared to wired networks, thus, additional measures along with data protection techniques should be taken to protect wireless networks. For example, one should never carry out personal transactions or banking or financial activities at place that offer free wireless networking like hotels and airports as one can never be sure of wireless network security at such places. Even if it is guaranteed, it is always better to clear out the history and cookies from the computer system that has been in use for the purpose of personal dealings. Although various security efforts have been made and are being made to ensure highest security for wireless networks, yet more needs to be done because none of the security feature can single-handedly provide optimum security to a wireless network (Kush & Kumar, 2005).
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Although wireless technology is one of the rapidly used and beneficial technologies of the world, it also has some challenges that need to be addressed in order for the technology to reap maximum benefits without any threat to the users. “Unauthorized access points, broadcasted SSIDs, unknown stations, and spoofed MAC addresses are just a few of the problems addressed in WLAN troubleshooting” (Choi et al., 2008, p. 78). Moreover, there are rogue access points with any wireless system that can allow intruders to access the networks from back door cannels. The way to overcome this issue is to enforce the no-wireless zone that can help in making the access points disappear in areas where they are not allowed to be visible for unauthorized users of the network.
Hacking is another issue associated closely with the use of wireless technology. Where there is a wireless network, the chances of hacking and unauthorized access increase. Hackers can easily monitor the web traffic at any particular computer system by gaining access to the Wi-Fi password. “Unauthorized access to company wireless and wired networks can come from a number of different methods and intents” (Choi et al., 2008, p. 78). Not every user knows the importance of encrypting the data using any particular protocol. “The process of changing plaintext into ciphertext is called encryption and the reverse process is called decryption” (Kush & Kumar, 2005, p. 15). However, the fact is that even if someone uses encryption of data, hackers can use a packet capture program to decryption the data. Doing so, they can view the important information being sent or received on the network on any computer systems.
Wireless communications taking place using Wi-Fi systems are prone to hacker attempts. A Wi-Fi is the type of internet network whose nodes are interconnected without any wires, and the remote transmission of information takes place by means of radio waves at the physical level (Wysocki, 2005). Since all current high speed wireless networks are using IEEE standards, especially 802.11g, the term Wi-Fi is used to distinguish wireless networks from other traditional wired networks. However, while using Wi-Fi for communicating using internet, one needs to make sure that the PCs connected wirelessly to the network are really own PCs and not of any other person (Posey, 2005, para.6).
A wired network is directly under the control of the administrator and therefore there is a trustworthy attitude toward the whole setup. On the other hand, wireless networks suffer from distrust because you never know who is accessing you network from outside the windows within the access point. Some of the main wireless network-based security threats include accidental association, malicious association, ad-hoc networks, identity theft, man-in-the-middle attacks, denial of service, and network injection (Choi et al., 2008). No matter how secure you make the wireless network, technology has enabled the hackers to devise more sophisticated means to create a security breach that is hidden from your eye. Hence, we see that there are differences between wired and wireless network security and none of the two types of networks is free from security breaches and threats.
Wireless network technology is inherently less secure as compared to the wired networks. “Many organizations are currently deploying wireless networks typically to use IEEE 802.11b protocols, but technology used is not secure and still highly susceptible to active attacks and passive intrusions” (Bhatnagar & Birla, 2015, p. 27). Unauthorized accesses and attempts are very difficult to be located since signals cannot be controlled or kept to any particular range. Moreover, encryption technologies are also not up to the mark of reliability and a professional and skilled hacker can attempt to decrypt important information being transferred over the network. Not only stealing of data can take place as the result of decrypting data over a wireless network, the overall speed and network performance also becomes at stake in case of multiple unauthorized accesses to the network (Sukhija & Gupta, 2012).
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“Sensor networks are much more likely to be taken over by insider attacks where the attacker gains access to all the information on the node and can perfectly emulate its behavior if they so choose” (Nugent, 2014, p. ii). In wireless/sensor networks, data can also be altered. “In this case, data is changed and sent along the network to the base station” (Nugent, 2014, p. 12). When data is altered, it may lead to poor decision making. Consideration should be taken that when an individual is altering data, their main intention is to ensure that they create confusion, thus they will always make the alteration in a way in which the resultant decision will be one that will benefit them in one way or another (Hwang, Jung, Sohn, & Park, 2008).
Data security is a major concern in the world of wireless technology. Unauthorized access of information leads to a situation whereby the lives of people might be in danger because their personal information is revealed. Properties, the systems used by organization, and bank accounts might also be at risk because access of information can be a way through which falsified access authentication can be made. Today, a large number of companies and individuals make use of WLANs to connect to the internet and share information with other computer systems. However, the radio waves that enable the working of the wireless networks pose a risk to security as they can be hacked (Dhiman, 2014, p. 68). WLANs pose a number of security threats, such as, Denial of Service, Eavesdropping, Spoofing, and Man-In-The-Middle attacks.
As solutions and shields against such threats, WLAN offers some solutions like wired equivalent privacy, Wi-Fi protected access, and WPA2/IEEE 802.11 to the users of the network. “IEEE 802.1X  and the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP)  can be adopted to provide a stronger authentication for each association” (He, 2006, p. 7). Some protection measures suggested by Dhiman (2014) for increasing WLAN security include use of static IP, access point placement, minimization of radio waves propagation and use of WLAN-focused intrusion detection and protection. However, there is still a lot to be done in the field of wireless security in order to make this technology completely secure for the users. Some other wireless network protection techniques outlined by Choi et al. (2008) include signal hiding technique using which signals for wireless networks can be made hidden for anonymous users and encryption technique using which data can be encrypted before being sent over the network.
Wireless technology security has become the most important consideration in the field of wireless networks. Businesses, organizations, firms, healthcare centers, financial corporations and military are at risk of multiple threats of important data loss and data overwriting with the use of wireless technologies for sending and receiving of information from one system to another. As technology is more and more being incorporated into almost every profession, the need for information security is also arising with every passing day. Whether it is a child communicating with his friends over the internet or it is a business corporation sharing its confidential information to distantly located offices using some wireless technology, the security of information being exchanged is at risk.
WLAN is a technology that allows users to access the data being transmitted over the network. Although it is a very useful and widely used technology, the authentication and encryption methods have flows in them that can pose security threat to the users of the network. Application of WLAN security checklist recommendations and deployment of VPNs, dynamic key distribution and centralized authentication as security measures can play a key role in overcoming the security issues related to 802.11 standards. Despite the fact that wireless technologies can bring a number of security issues, the benefits associated with these technologies cannot be foregone because of those security challenges. Therefore, the best solution is to find ways to ensure maximum security to wireless networks so that important information does not go into wrong hands without being in the knowledge of the authentic users of the network.
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