Fire(wall)-breathing legislator explains his WiFi law plans

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 18 November 2005

It turns out that Westchester County executive Andy Spano has been collecting flack for his rather weird idea to "prevent insecure WiFi operations" - and has chosen to explain his thoughts. It's legislation "aimed at raising public awareness," he says.

Spano's problem is that he publicised his proposed laws - to enforce firewalls for wireless networks - by doing a war-drive down the business district. A war-drive merely shows open access points. But what Spano is trying to "raise awareness" of is generally poor security.

In an open letter, he wrote: "A series of recent reports in the news has shown an increase in the rise of drive-by hacking, where thieves singled out stores with strong wireless signals and weakly protected data. Using a laptop computer outfitted with an off-the-shelf wireless card, the thieves were able to pick up signals around the store and use them to gain access to its computer systems."

Spano quoted a report in the New York Times, "Main Street In The Cross Hairs" which reported, back in July, which exposed some very large retail chains as not having firewalls - and who were having their internal databases picked clean of sensitive credit card information by drive-by wireless hackers.

The report, incredibly, suggested that having had their credit card data reamed out, the victims were doing nothing to protect themselves, and were getting robbed again, and again.

The NYT quoted Robert McCullen, the chief executive of AmbironTrustwave, a Chicago firm that is the payment industry's largest data security auditor, who claimed: "What people don't recognize is that some of those companies are DSW, BJ's Wholesale or Chipotle. These are big names."

Spano told "We recognize that the law's current definition of minimum security as a "firewall" has been ambiguously drafted. The definition will be modified to address the concerns raised. "

See also The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Your Data

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