Growing up, we always had that special neighborhood house that we thought was “great,” We wanted to spend the night or just hang out there since it was a cool place to be. We knew the neighbor’s parents would let us stay up later than we could at home and play games on the commodore 64 (or TRS 80). They had a different policy for their home which provided inches of additional freedoms that we used to our advantage.
Well, the cool neighbors are still around, only this time providing a way for your inquisitive kids to once again escape your home policy all together. You can build the best security in the world for your children, but that neighbor down the road with the wide open wireless network is the cool place to be now! You see, wireless is like a CB radio; everyone who has one can hear each other within a certain distance. The range on wireless signals can vary from a few feet to hundreds of yards, so the chances are fair to great that your child can connect to the neighbor’s wireless internet connection. They can become part of their network and are no long subject to your policies. It’s the great escape and is completely invisible to you if you are not watching out for it. Also keep in mind that ipods, cell phones and gaming stations have wireless capabilities, so make sure that each device is configured to connect to your network only.
Today’s computer systems are so helpful that they can attach to everything other than the place you want to attach. A little attention to turning off automatic connect features and configuring the technology so that only you (the administrator) can change the network settings will ensure that your kids ask for permission first and not forgiveness later. By securing your wireless properly, you can enforce your rules and prevent accidental exposure to the children you are trying to protect.
By securing your wireless network, you will also benefit in preventing other children in your neighbor from using YOUR network and reduce your chances of becoming that cool neighbor to others. This will allow you to provide the best protection for your children and at the same time, force others in the nearby area to use their own family policies.
You would not be happy having the Recording Industry Association of America knocking your door, wanting to discuss the thousands of music downloads you just made. The effect of this could cause your child to be wrongly punished while little Jimmy down the street is happy since his iPod is full. As parents, we need to take the time to learn about the technology in your home and discover the options that will help support your guiding principles on internet safety. Once we get on top of what we have, we enable ourselves to become proactive educators vs. reactive firefighters.
–Rick Lawhorn CISSP, CISA, CHP, CHSS.