Archive for September, 2010

Why password protect guest WiFi?

September 30th, 2010 Comments off

Pogue David Pogue posted this to his twitter feed:

“Me: Why do GUEST networks require passwords? You: “Security.”

Me: Fine–then why HAVE Guest at all? The regular WiFi already requires login!”

It’s a good question and the annoyance of needing a password to get access to what is, presumptively, open by virtue of being called a “Guest” network does seem a bit silly. The truth is though, it’s good policy to limit access even to ‘Guests’ and, in some cases, it may afford some legal protection.

When operating any network, you have certain responsibilities. To some degree, these apply whether corporate or personal but, obviously, more so when corporate, NGO, or the like:

  • Protect the internet at large from the behavior of your users.
  • Protect your ‘resident’ users from the public net.
  • Protect confidential data on your private net.
  • Meet regulatory and certification requirements.

So, guests to your network needing a password means you can ensure they are, at least nominally, invited ones. In cases where you are under regulatory scrutiny, you should generate a unique password for each guest and you might want to log their activities. (no, I don’t LIKE logging people. It offends me but sometimes it’s a job requirement)

By limiting your guests to invited ones, those you give a password, you can:

  • Ensure that only people you want to have access to what may be constrained bandwidth.
  • Provide them access to a sandboxed network to allow them access to only to resources they need, and, more importantly, you need them to have.
  • Segment outgoing traffic to a subnet other than the one your employees and official activities are done with and, possibly, with a unique domain so your ‘guests’ are less likely to accidentally land you on a spamblock or similar list.

Yes, there are those who argue that a wide open network means John Doe claims made against you by the RIAA and the like aren’t ‘you’ because anyone could have used your network but I am of the opinion that one doesn’t leave one’s guns on the porch so you can deny the ballistics data points to you as the killer. To me, there are better ways to have a stand up defense against the xIAA weasels of the world.

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Categories: Security Tags:

Pigs in space! The price of SMS

September 29th, 2010 No comments

A friend of mine, an absurdly, almost frighteningly smart guy I will name if he gives me permission, did a really interesting bit of calculating a while back.

During news coverage of a Space Shuttle mission to make repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope a gathering of  geeks chatting about the Hubble were all, coincidentally, lamenting the cost of SMS (text) messaging on our cell phones. I think the connection was that while we were discussing these things, we were also doing some actual work and evaluating the pricing of a few hosting providers for a project we were working on.

My oh-so-brilliant friend did some calculations on the published costs of building, flying and maintaining Hubble and on the amount of data, in bits, it had returned to date and he compared those costs to the then price of SMS messages. How much cheaper have texts gotten since then? How much more data has Hubble sent back?

On a per bit basis, at the time, SMS cost more on your bill than what NASA paid for data from the Hubble Space Telescope. I wish I remembered the actual number he quoted but I recall it being at least one order of magnitude more.

Consider, SMS is actually originally an additional use of the SS7 protocols used to allow the cell towers to set up and tear down the connection for a phone call and to bill you for it. Adding SMS to your cell services demanded the telcos do nothing more than update their software. No extra towers, bandwidth, nothing. It was just a really smart additional use for an existing resource. I’d hazard a very confident guess it costs them a lot more to track and bill you for your texts than to send them.

Think about that the next time you pay your cell bill. Think about that the next time you cut them an ounce of slack for blocking your upgrade of Android to Froyo or your iPhone from tethering without an extra fee on top of the data plan you already pay for.

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Wireless, Net Neutrality and Stump The Band

September 29th, 2010 Comments off

Front Of House Online, an online magazine and news sight for production professionals (as in event/concert production) has has in introductory piece about how recently released FCC rules seem to set up a serious problem, actually perpetuate an existing problem, of  ‘stump the band’ when it comes to how to use wireless mics, in ear monitors and wireless instrument belt packs without radio interference.

More to the point for most readers of this site though is that the article is also a good starting point for thinking about the net neutrality issue.

Regulating the use of and allocation of radio spectrum is a necessary evil. Consider the following:

  • In the US (and elsewhere) radio frequency spectrum, channels, are considered public property the government must license for use. The government defines what kinds of signals occupy particular channels and charge for the allocation of some those channels as revenue for the state. The state, us, we the people and all that.
  • How that spectrum is allocated impacts your freedom. We choose to give up some individual freedoms to function as part of a society.
  • Federally regulating the use of radio spectrum ensures our car radios work no matter what state we drive in. Insures that our air traffic controllers can be heard by pilots flying planes over our heads rather than being blasted by the local broadcast of Rush Limbaugh who, unregulated, might pick any channel he liked… or all of them.
  • Radio frequencies are as much public property as the little patches of land the ugly poles have been rammed into on the street in front of your house.
  • Just as the government, local, state and federal, all allow the telcos and cable companies to foul our view with ugly poles and wires, block traffic, or worse, dig and poorly patch holes in our streets to lay the cables, they license the use of radio spectrum on our behalf.
  • When our government licenses the use of our property, a balance must be struck to ensure our individual rights are preserved and the needs of the society as a whole are supported.

Net neutrality isn’t just about ensuring free speech, fair rates, balance in media, basic privacy and security.  It’s about how we demand our property be used when selling us services that rely on access to our resources that we licensed to companies to profit from.

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Categories: Civil Rights, Media, Security Tags: ,