Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


Firesheep? Not on a Hautspot network

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Many of you know that I am the Chief Network Architect for Hautspot. LLC, a little Wi-Fi company which, among other things, is a CLEAR Local Master Platinum Distributor in the Washington, DC metro market. Hautspot's main focus prior to entering into the distributorship agreement with Clearwire, was (and still is) managed Wi-Fi networks built on technology from Sputnik, Inc.

I stumbled upon this article on The Register this evening, describing an engineer at his local coffee shop (the establishment shall remain unnamed on my blog, because I truly despise their idea of java - and I'm a real coffee drinker) using Firesheep - a Firefox extension which allows one to pick off other users' authentication cookies over open networks - and easily hacking other people's social networking accounts (no surprise there, huh?), among other things.

Fortunately, most of our hotspots employ SSID Client Isolation, which is a technology which prevents neighboring users from snooping on other patrons' connections. No client-side configuration is necessary. No crackable VPN passphrases (Steve Gibson, for whom I have the utmost respect, is dead wrong with his suggestion of simply enabling WPA encryption on public WLANs and using a commonly used term, such as the venue name or even "free," as these can be so easily cracked and the system made vulnerable to MITM attack). It simply makes it impossible to route traffic from, say, to on the same LAN; the router won't pass the packets. Period.

Venue owners: for a few $$ per day, you could be enjoying secure, advertising-supported (i.e., you sell ad space on your very own portal page, thus offsetting the cost of the managed service) hotspots, with your own branding for all to see. Authentication is handled on our server. All that's needed on your end is a router/AP, which we provide, and a broadband connection (and if you don't happen to have one of those, we can usually fix that for you, too). Contact us for more info and a FREE site survey.

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