Airport WLANs lack safeguards

Wednesday, 18 September 2002, 3:13 PM EST

While U.S. airlines and airports have beefed up physical security during the past year, wireless LANs continue to be potential IT security problems for some airports, according to an informal audit.

Wireless LANs used at four major airports in applications such as passenger check-in and baggage transfers were operating without even some of the most basic forms of security protections, said Richard Rushing, vice president of technical services at Alpharetta, Ga.-based AirDefense Inc. Rushing checked the LANs as he traveled through the airports the week of Sept. 2.

Only 32 of the 112 WLAN access points (AP) detected by Rushing had the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol turned on, he said. WEP is an encryption technology that's built into all 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, WLANs. In addition, Rushing said, the Service Set Identifiers (SSID) hadn't been turned off on more than half of the APs he found with the help of a WLAN card and NetStumbler AP-detection software. Many of the APs were broadcasting plain-text SSIDs, he added.

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