Please don’t feed the “Free Public WiFi” troll!

 29 Nov 2006 09:54:05 pm

A couple of weeks ago I was at a training up in Seattle and saw the open wireless SSID “Free Public WiFi”; I tried to connect but didn’t get an IP and disconnected. Than last week I was in LAX and saw the same SSID, after trying to connect and failing to get yet another DHCP address. I checked and noticed that this was an ad-hoc network (computer to computer).

At first I just thought it was a strange coincidence but then today I was on the phone with one of our sales guys who was in Eugene (Oregon) and he mentioned that he was trying to get on a wireless network with the same name.

A quick Google search shows that I’m not the only one noticing these networks popping up all over the place. Apparently if you configure Windows XP to connect to an ad-hoc network (as everyone who tries to connect to one of these networks is doing) than it adds them to the list of preferred networks and tries to connect to them in the future (broadcasting out the SSID for everyone else to see).

For those of you running Vista whenever you connect to a new network you are given the option of whether to save the connection (the default is not to). So long as you tell it to not save the connection your computer shouldn’t broadcast this network in the future.

Aside from just being obnoxious this could have some security implications for you. For example if you aren’t running a software firewall (or if you are but have made exceptions) anyone could connect to an ad-hoc network you are broadcasting and attempt to access your computer.

The solution appears to be simple. Configure your client to connect to only infrastructure networks. I think this should be the default anyways considering the infrequency that users connect to ad-hoc networks.



Category : Networking | Posted By : Erik | Comments [0] | Trackbacks [0]


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