The Future of Wi-Fi

A photograph of a metro Wi-Fi antenna in Minne...

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Wi-Fi is growing in popularity, according to the WiFi Alliance (but then it would say that, wouldn’t it!). However, it appears to be the case, with increasing numbers of smartphones coming with built-in Wi-Fi and one only has to think of the iPad and the iPhone sales numbers to realise that there is a growing number of wireless devices out there.

So, what can we expect from our wi-fi in the future? Well, 802.11n is becoming more ubiquitous and now the Wi-Fi industry has its sights set on increasing Wi-Fi throughput and range, with upcoming certification programs for Wi-Fi in the 60 GHz frequency band and with Very High Throughput (VHT) Wi-Fi in 5 GHz.

There is also the introduction of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Wi-Fi Direct™, a certification program for device-to-device communication without a wireless network or access point. This may well see the death of bluetooth.

Certainly, the rapid growth in wireless devices (device shipments expected to reach two billion by 2015 )  means we all need to think  more about security and avoid using unsecured networks whenever possible. It’s thought that some 400, 000 of the 3.5 million hotspots around the world are unsecured and vulnerable to hacking, so beware.

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East Midland Trains to have free Wi-Fi for 1st Class Only

East Midlands Trains Class 43 Power Car No. 43...
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East Midlands Trains’ is the latest rail company to announce plans to equip its services to London with on-board WiFi. A total of 27 Meridian trains can now provide access to the internet and four of its High Speed Trains fleet have also been fitted with the technology.

From September this year First Class passengers have had free access to the service, with other passengers having to pay a nominal charge. Plans are in place for additional services by early 2011 when the remaining seven High Speed Trains will be equipped with internet access.

David Horne, customer service director for East Midlands Trains, said: “We are very pleased with how the WiFi service has been received by our customers. Now that the Meridian fleet has been completed, customers will be able to access WiFi on the vast majority of our trains to and from London.”

How long it will be before the whole rail network is equipped with Wi-Fi is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, here a list of what’s currently available:

Virgin Trains

Virgin Pendolino and Super Voyager trains have Wi-Fi access available with either a one-hour or 24-hour pass. Virgin Trains Wi-Fi is provided by T-Mobile so passes can be used at any of T-Mobile’s 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. First-class passengers get free Wi-Fi on board.

National Express

East Coast Trains offers free Wi-Fi access on all its trains.

Eurostar

Eurostar offers Wi-Fi hotspots at its major UK stations, including London St. Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International, operated by Cityspace and The Cloud.

Business Premier customers get free Wi-Fi internet in Business Premier Lounges, and free Wi-Fi access is available to all Eurostar customers at St Pancras International.

Heathrow Express

Heathrow Express – on-train Wi-Fi access is available via T-Mobile HotSpots between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport.

Grand Central Trains

Grand Central Trains offer free Wi-Fi throughout their trains.

This list is courtesy of  Which magazine (http://www.which.co.uk/).

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WiFi issues with Windows 7 devices

Image representing Dell as depicted in CrunchBase
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Seems that not everything is going smoothly for Microsoft, with reports of various problems and mixed reviews for it’s new Windows 7 smartphone devices.

Already, PC giant Dell’s new Windows Phone 7-powered smartphone Venue Pro reportedly has a WiFi glitch. According to the company, a firmware glitch is the culprit behind the connectivity issue faced by some users. Dell, have confimed in the blog that the issue that was reported in blogs like Boy Genius Report and Ubergizmo is indeed genuine. 

HTC Windows 7 handsets have also been reported as experiencing problems with WiFi, atlhough HTC has remained strangely quiet on the front, for now.

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Wi-Fi Firesheep Hacking Tool Threat to Public Wi-Fi

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Firesheep is a Firefox add-on that it possible for anyone to hack into open Wi-Fi networks, such as those commonly found in public networks. Written by Eric Butler, it allows you to intercept cookies by Amazon, bit.ly, Facebook, Twitter, CNET, Cisco, Dropbox, Google and numerous others. The technique is known as ‘HTTP session hijacking’ (or ‘sidejacking‘). The programmer also says its easy for any competent programmer to write their own plugins to add to the sites that can be hacked.

The captured cookies contain the login details of the unsuspecting user of the public network and will also display their photo and name in the browser sidebar. By double-clicking on the user you can then login to the site in question, just as if you were the actual user. The potential for anyone to exploit this for nefarious ends is frightening, and should make everyone think twice about using public (open) networks at all.

Butler has said that the only effective way to combat the vulnerability his Firefox web browser add-on Firesheep takes advantage of is for the sites to use full end-to-end encryption, known as HTTPS or SSL but many sites default to the HTTP protocol because it’s quicker.

Although you can download the add-on from eleewhere I am not including any links here to it as I don’t want to encourage such activity.

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Google sinks deeper in the mire of its own creation

Its a while since the fuss over Google’s Street View cars ‘stealing’ wifi details as it cruised by our houses first blew up. We may have forgotten about it but the lawyers haven’t and now Google has come clean. Finally, they have admitted to taking some emails, URLs and passwords during its Street View operation. How many precisely isn’t clear but it means Google is now facing further legal action and in all probability, a hefty fine. hefty by most folk’s measure but in this case it seems the maximum fine could be just £500,000. This is a tiny amount for a company as rich as Google. Admittedly, this is only in the UK but even so, it’s nothing.

The same can’t be said about the negative publicity that Google will receive and its not likely to be the end of the matter either, with other countries legislators looking to fine them too. Some commentators think Google has broken no laws so that no fine is possible. Privacy groups of course have a different view and are calling for Google to be heavily punished.

Whether you believe Google acted in a malicious and illegal manner or that it was an entirely unintentional and accidental error on their part is somewhat irrelevant. What’s important is that if Google can collect private data so easily ( a drive-by snatch ) then how easy can it be for a determined hacker? All this underlines the need for you to have decent security on your wireless network, so make sure you are using WPA2 (and not the easily hacked WEP) security on your network. Otherwise you are asking others to come and steal your private data, possibly your identity and your money sitting in your bank accounts too. You have been warned.

Othello Tech Systems

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Thousands of UK Wi-Fi users still vulnerable to hackers

A diagram showing a possible WI-FI network.
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It seems the message still isn’t getting across. A recent report by insurance firm CPP shows some 40,000 wi-fi networks across the UK could be easily hacked, often within a few seconds. What’s most shocking about this finding is that almost half of them had no password at all – that’s nearly 20,000!

These networks are vulnerable to even the most inept hacker. With little more than a laptop, a wireless connection and some easily obtained software all of these networks could be hacked and the owner wouldn’t even know it. That means if they are using their internet connection to do online banking that they could find their logons stolen, followed soon after by their cash. They are also vulnerable to having their online identity stolen, their computers taken over and turned into zombies spewing forth spam and sending more viruses and Trojans around the net.

Another surprising finding of the research is that 82% of those interviewed thought their networks were secure. This just underlines the fact that most of the public have little understanding about Wi-Fi security and are oblivious to the risks they are facing. When one considers that Wi-Fi is very common now on smartphones and other devices (iPods and iPads for example) then this is a very worrying situation indeed. Its difficult to know what can be done about it too as most of the public develop a glazed look whenever you try and explain Wi-Fi security through the use of WPA2 security etc.

One solution would be for manufacturers to design devices with automatic security configuration and the SSID and wireless keys stuck on a label on the device. SKY do this with some of their routers so it’s possible to do it. Until all Wi-Fi devices come automatically configured with WPA2 encryption however, it’s down to the end-user to educate themselves and make sure their devices and networks in general are all properly secured.

Check out my post here for some tips on how to do this. I intend to write another post on how to secure your Wi-Fi network step by step so keep visiting.

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AT&T makes huge investment in wireless networks

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MINNEAPOLIS, Sept 09, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — In just the first six months of this year, AT&T invested nearly $40 million in its wireless network to continue improving customer service in Minnesota.

AT&T is the world’s largest communication company in terms of revenue ($123 billion in 2009). They provide services to 85m customers in the USA and have a presence in virtually every country in the world (220 currently). In terms of WiFi they provide over 125,000 WiFi hotspots around the world. They even provide the wireless networking services on 140 cruise ships!

The fact this sizable investment was just in the US State of Minnesota shows just how much money the company is investing in wireless networks. This can only be a good thing.

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