'Warbiking' highlights the need for better wireless security

A high-tech bike ride around Sydney shows off how little thought many companies and individuals give to wireless security.

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Don't let the lycra fool you: James Lyne isn't your traditional cyclist.

Unlike the majority of MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) on Sydney's roads, he's not cycling to and from work, or for medically-advised health reasons. He's actually the global head of security research for Sophos, and this bike ride is all about research.

Lyne has a high-tech rig installed on his bike that sniffs out Wi-Fi networks and lets him see just what their security is like. He calls it warbiking -- named after the old-school wardriving in the early days of wireless networks -- and last week we took a ride with him around Sydney.

Sydney is just the latest stop on Lyne's World of Warbiking tour -- he's been through Hanoi, London, San Francisco and more. While in town, Lyne's ride scanned a total of 34,476 networks with some depressing results.

A staggering 28 percent of the networks had either no security encryption at all or used WEP -- a security algorithm that's been regarded as broken since 2001. A further 28 percent used WPA rather than the preferred WPA2.

Amazingly, these results were actually better than many of the other cities that Lyne has been to.

The flipside of the Warbiking tour is when Lyne actually offers an unsecured network to see who connects and see what's sort of activities they're willing to perform on an open network. In Sydney, people connecting to the unknown network were happy to connect to not only social media sites but even netbanking.

According to Lyne: "This willingness to connect to any wireless network that professes to offer free Wi-Fi, without ensuring you have some kind of security measures in place, is like shouting your personal or company information out of the nearest window and being surprised when someone abuses it."

In the video above, Lyne explains warbiking in greater detail as well as offering some great advice about wireless security, not only for Sydneysiders but anyone around the world.

 

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