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AirDefense Probe Exposes Wi-Fi Security Reality at NRF Convention

At a big US trade show, the veil was lifted and the myth about high wireless security was broken when a survey conducted on Wi-Fi Access Point's (AP's) unrevealed dreadful security leading to frequent usage of hacking equipment, and extensive signal congestion.

The study conducted by AirDefence, the Wi-Fi expert, in the third week of January 2008 at the annual National Retail Federation (NRF) Convention & Expo in New York, highlighted the existence of WPA2 (Wi-Fi protected access 2), the most protected encryption protocol, only in less than 10% of 458 contact points examined. As per AirDefence, out of 1,693 wireless devices like PDA's and laptops examined, almost 80% were susceptible to danger of 'evil twins', a form of scams of phishing e-mails and nearly six AP's out of 10 had Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption, most feeble airborne data guard,

Chief Security Officer of AirDefence, Richard Rushing, informed SCMagazineUS on January 16, 2008, that usually wireless service providers prefer expediency above security while arranging for convention booths. Expo has completely shown environment and the way retail industry is resolute to have ample security for Wi-Fi systems, the occurrence of incidents of hacking and jamming of WEP's and devices portrays an interesting picture, he said. Expediency aspect overrides security aspect.

Alarmingly, the probe discovered the involvement of wireless hacking tools, namely Hotspotter and Karma being used to hack APs in convention hall. The company registered 39 attacks that were trying to congest APs, either by jamming signal on particular channel or by overcrowding the bandwidth.

The security issues of a show like this can't be put parallel with typical use of Wi-Fi in real world. Not to overlook, the reason behind this security disorder could be more than obvious poor state of wireless security - there's a possibility of using well planned APs blockage as weapon of industrial sabotage on competitors.

However, keeping in mind that the most notorious wireless hack in history was on TJX, a retailer which endured immense costly data breach due to open APs, retail industry needs to be really careful on Wi-Fi security issues.

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