not only are there quite a number of people who intentionally look for signals they can ride, there are even more that just happen to find them, without intentionally looking and use them because they are there.
one should take an approach geared more towards security when designing or adminstering any network of today.
a sidewalk surfer using your wireless is the same as a stranger walking into your home or office and plugging in their computer to you LAN. SECURITY can now easily be comprimised.
i think it is a best practice to button up your wireless signal with the security features designed such as WEP, WPA-TKIP, WPA2-AES, 802.1x, NAC, IPS....even more...
as with my enterprise networks, i make it a huge priority to secure my personal networks and recommend the same.
if they can use your signal they can send viruses, hack, DoS, etc.
please see the following link for more wireless security info:
Like Greg's excellent post indicated this is a huge problem. The term "Sidewalk Surfing" makes it sound quite benign, but this should be taken seriously by anyone wanting to setup a Home wireless network.Take a few minutes to read the following links;
Essential Home Wireless Security Practices
Here is an excerpt;
"802.11x is not without its flaws. If someone wants on your wireless network bad enough, they'll probably get on one way or another. What your average home user needs to do is simply not provide fertile stomping grounds for people who are out for an easy target. You might wonder why anyone would even want access to your network. In most scenarios, your wireless network provides perpetrators with two things: 1) access to your local network (the computers connected up in your house), which if unsecured means access to your data, and better yet, 2) access to the 'net. 11Mbits/sec isn't a bad little heist for someone who wants to spend all night downloading stuff from your connection."
Here is an excerpt from another doc that identifies that approx. 70% of home wireless networks had no security whatsoever;
"What I tell the home user is that they should take four steps to better secure their WLAN.
Enable 128 bit WEP with a hand-entered string of characters that are not likely to be guessed. A string of all 1's or some other silliness doesn't cut it.
Stop broadcasting the SSID.
Enable MAC address filtering.
Change your WEP keys from time to time.
These steps are not likely to protect them if they are specifically targeted by someone who wants to penetrate their WLAN, but this will go a long way in raising the bar and removes them from the long list of low hanging fruit in their neighborhood. For a business or someone who must exercise a high level of precaution, this is simply not enough and a more secure solution is required."
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