Last year about this time, I was sitting at a long table with the contractor and architect of our new Saint Joseph the Worker Monastery (donations still needed; go to monksofadoration.org/giftshop.html).
We were discussing last-minute changes to the building.
In the house we were temporarily renting, I had run cables from our network router to all the computers in the house. Not a pretty sight. In the new building, I wanted the cables run through the walls to various Ethernet outlet locations. The architect looked at me and asked, “Why don't you just go with a wireless network?”
I answered, “Because it's not secure.”
Then I watched as the faces of the architect and contractor blanched. I could only presume that they, themselves, had wireless networks.
Now, I know it is very tempting to want to go wireless because of laptop portability and avoidance of expensive network cabling. Therefore, I can understand why people like wireless networks.
But some wireless users assume they're not doing anything important enough for hackers to care about. “All I do,” they say, “is surf the Web and check e-mail.”
Well, think again. Among the risks you'll run when you choose a wireless solution:
Unauthorized access. All your hard-disk information is wide open to hackers. You may think you don't store credit-card information on your laptop. But do you want to gamble that a credit-card number, Social Security number, account password or other personal data isn't located someplace on your hard disk?
Zombie networking. Any hacker near you can use your Internet connection in any way he or she wishes if you're unprotected. Anything he or she does would appear to have come from your computer — because it did! A hacker with a powerful antenna can use your signal from miles away.
Legal liability. If your unsecured wireless connection is used for illegal purposes, you may be held responsible. This issue of who's liable is still being worked out by courts around the world. Attorney Robert Hale II in an article for High Technology Law Journal argues that people who allow unprotected wireless connections might be found to have given “apparent consent” to anything that's done with their signal. Do you want to be the test case for this attorney?
Brian Livingston, editor of the Windows Secrets newsletter, writes, “The security of Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) has largely been a joke. Wireless vendors have routinely shipped their products with all of their security features turned off.”
He goes on to say that even the built-in security features to Wi-Fi routers, access points and adapters called WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) is useless, since common hacker tools can break in within minutes, if not seconds.
Fortunately, in October of 2003 the Wi-Fi Alliance Trade Group developed WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and an expanded version WPA2 in September of 2004. These two methods are considered more secure for wireless communications.
Microsoft offers free client software, WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2), although only for Windows XP users, at support.microsoft.com. If you have successfully established a secure wireless connection in Windows XP, WPA will be displayed under the Start>Settings>Network Connections view window. Those without Windows XP can purchase the AEGIS WPA2 Client at meetinghousedata.com/store.
To successfully establish a WPA or WPA2 session, three of your components need to support the standard: your client software, Wi-Fi adapter, Wi-Fi router (or access point plugged into a router). Check with your vendors to see if your equipment supports WPA or WPA2. If not, you may be able to upgrade them to it.
Recently purchased equipment should already support WPA2. Finally, don't forget to choose a tough-to-crack password for your wireless connection. Try the “Secure Password Generator” available at winguides.com/security/password.php for help with coming up with it.
What about when you need to use a laptop wirelessly in a hotel or an Internet café? Most public hotspots have never turned on any security features. Hackers in these locations can display logon pages that look exactly like the ones the local hotspot displays. You then end up handing over your hotspot password and any number of other valuable passwords to the perpetrators.
WPA and WPA2 prevent this kind of identity theft. But since this security probably isn't available, your best bet is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). If you work for a corporation that's already set up a VPN, this step may have already been taken care of. Otherwise, you can pay a minimal fee per month to use PublicVPN at publicvpn.com or Spotlock at jiwire.com.
I am sure that wireless connections are only going to become more popular as the technology continues to develop. Many universities require their students to have wireless laptops. Municipal Wi-Fi areas are springing up even at airports.
And then you have hotspots offered by companies like Starbucks. So the temptation to go wireless is great.
Just remember that the Wi-Fi Alliance refers to client software that supports WPA/WPA2 as a “supplicant.” This word ordinarily means “someone who prays for favors.”
You may need to pray that your wireless connection isn't hacked.
Brother John Raymond is co-founder of the Monks of Adoration in Venice, Florida.
WEEKLY DVD/VIDEO PICKS
The month of July is traditionally devoted to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. Let's look at some websites offering content on this devotion.
Start with Blessed Pope John XXIII's Apostolic Letter “On Promoting Devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ” at papalencyclicals.net/John23/j23pb.htm.
Ever heard of the “Chaplet of the Most Precious Blood?” I hadn't. You can find this devotion at catholicdoors.com/prayers/chaplets/chap09.htm.
You might also want to pray the Litany of the Most Precious Blood at catholicdoors.com/prayers/litanies/p03476.htm.
To learn about purported “Eucharistic Miracles,” where the Most Precious Blood was miraculously shed from the consecrated Host, go to therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/a3.html.
There are some religious communities dedicated to the Most Precious Blood. The Missionaries of the Precious Blood can be found at mission-preciousblood.org. Under their links, you will find other Precious Blood congregations and lay-associate programs.