Wi-Fi has become the norm to enable employees access to the shared resources they need to conduct their daily job tasks, and a Wi-Fi Access Point (AP) is one of the devices that helps with the process. APs are mainly used to extend the wireless coverage of an existing network and increase the number of users that can connect to it. However, APs can also be a pipeline to penetrate your computers, files, and servers, and the risk of an attack is growing. Nearly two-thirds of small- and medium-sized businesses reported cyber-attacks in 20181, resulting in sustained system outages and disruption.
This article outlines the types of information stored on APs, the risks it poses, and what should be done to secure the data while the AP is in use, therefore deterring it from falling into the hands of a malicious third party. We also offer a secure process for retiring the device from your organization’s IT infrastructure.
The Operating System:
Just like your smartphone or computer, APs have their own Operating Systems. These Operating Systems need to be maintained, patched, and updated, just like your other devices. Unfortunately, they also have vulnerabilities, such as backdoors, that can be exploited. Cyber-attackers take advantage of such vulnerabilities to covertly enter and potentially stay for long periods of time. During their stay, the attacker may deploy a malicious payload within the operating system, where it cannot be easily discovered, immediately causing data security risks and possible irreconcilable incidents. Even after an AP is decommissioned, the information and data can remain on the device, leaving your organization vulnerable.
Most network devices, including wireless access points, are pre-configured with default administrator passwords to set up. These default passwords are easily available to obtain online, and so provide only marginal protection. Changing default passwords makes it harder for attackers to access a device. Use and periodic changing of complex passwords is your first line of defense in protecting your device3. Without sufficient protection, the statistical odds of a cyber-attacker stealing passwords and offering them up in various forums on the Dark Web are probable.
Web surfing history:
APs typically keep a log history of any data that comes through it. While this information is useful for a network administrator to troubleshoot and identify trends and unusual behavior, this same information could also help a cyber-attacker build a profile of intended targets to facilitate phishing or social engineering attacks. These risks are present both while the device is in active use, and after the device is removed from the infrastructure.
Every network card that is installed onto a wireless device or computer comes with what is known as a “Media Access Control Address”(MAC). This is a string of numbers and letters that identifies your device on the network and the device manufacturer. If a Cyber-attacker infiltrates your network, they can use the MAC to locate a device and deploy malicious payload ranging from Trojan Horses to the much more aggressive malware that can launch and execute Ransomware attacks.
Fixes to Keep your AP Safe
To keep your AP secure while the AP is in use on your network, here are some best practices that should be followed by your administrator:
- Immediately delete or disable the default accounts passwords that come with the device.
- Create strong passwords and change them with frequency. Your AP accounts should follow the same password policies as your other devices. Using a Password Manager is an easy way to create long and complex passwords for each account you have.
- Set up the AP with strong encryption enabled to ensure secure communication from end to end. Make sure the network lines of communications are fully encrypted from the Wi-Fi Access Point to all the other devices that are connected to it.
- Download and apply all the latest software upgrades, patches, and firmware.
- Include your AP devices in your vulnerability scanning.
- Delete the stored log history on a regular basis. If there is a need to keep that history, create backup copies and store them in a secure location (i.e., in the Cloud) before you start the actual deletion process.
In conclusion, any device you make a Wi-Fi connection with presents a potential security risk and should be part of your data security policies. Wi-Fi access points need to be monitored, updated, and checked regularly to minimize data security risks. The best practices outlined in this article are quick and easy to implement.
Today, Wi-Fi networks experience bandwidth-intensive media content and multiple Wi-Fi devices per user. Moving forward, networks will face a continued dramatic increase in the number of devices and a diverse range of new technologies that rely heavily on Wi-Fi2.
To keep up with evolving technology, replacing your Wi-Fi access point is inevitable. When retiring an AP device, do so in accordance with your organization’s protocols for data-bearing assets. Trust your certified ITAD (IT Asset Disposition) partner to securely reset the device to original factory settings, ensuring that any data remaining on the device is eradicated, protecting your organization from possible data security risks.
Data security doesn’t stop when assets are disconnected from the infrastructure. The data contained on end-of-use and end-of-life IT assets remains a risk until properly processed by a certified IT Asset Disposition service provider.
At Sipi Asset Recovery, protecting our client’s data and brand reputation is at the forefront of every service we offer. Contact us today to learn how we can help protect your data.