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New law forces businesses to secure wireless nets

Lawmakers in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City, have passed a law that forces businesses using wireless technology to secure their networks, so hackers can't steal customers' personal information, such as credit card numbers.

The law also requires businesses offering Internet access to post signs encouraging users to install firewalls. It's considered one of the first laws in the nation to take such a strict stand securing wireless networks, according to an article posted on

Hard core hackers can break into just about any network, but wireless networks are especially vulnerable to attacks, because signals and traffic can be intercepted as they travel over the air. And if the data that's being transmitted isn't encrypted it's relatively easy for criminals to hack into an unprotected wireless network and steal records.

The CNN story said that the new law, which will go into effect in October 2006, requires businesses to install a firewall or change the default SSID, the name that identifies a wireless network, if the personal information stored has not already been encrypted. Businesses that don't comply risk fines of as much as $500.

Protecting customer data has become an important issue for businesses over the last couple of years. Not only have criminals targeted e-commerce sites, but they've also been scamming traditional bricks and mortar retailers by stealing credit card information from their card readers. The cell phone industry has also had its brush with data breaches. Earlier this year, several mobile phone operators sued companies that own Web sites selling customer information.