A secure wireless network is a key component of nearly any enterprise networking solution, but why is it so important that your wireless network be secured? Couldn't you just leave the network open and secure the workstations and servers to prevent malicious activity?
Top 5 Reasons to Maintain Secure Networks
1) Prevents free riders from stealing bandwidth - Most people have probably
surreptitiously written a last minute email in a hotel or fast food restaurant parking lot, and it may seem like this is a rather benign type of problem. After all, how much bandwidth could they use?
Quite a bit, actually. Especially if your unsecured enterprise-grade internet access becomes known to pirates or hackers. With the right equipment, a single pirate downloading movies, software, and music can severely degrade your network's performance.
2) Prevents liability from the actions of others - Whether it's pirates stealing Hollywood movies, hackers looking to attack government systems, or identity thieves opening illegal credit lines, cyber criminals specifically look for unsecured enterprise networks on which to perform their dirty work. They have ways of
masking their computer's forensic signature, so when the authorities' investigation of any crime committed leads to your organization's IP address, the trail stops with you.
While it is unlikely any penalties would be sought against your organization without proof of culpability in whatever crime was committed, just going through the investigative process can be demoralizing to staff and embarrassing for the organization. A secure wireless network can avoid this eventuality.
3) Protects network resources - Aside from using your organization's network to perform nefarious activities, criminals may actually target your network, depending on the nature of your organization. And even if your organization's network does not contain data or information that would seem to be apparently valuable, some hackers will target your network for reasons no more involved than because it was there. Thus, a secure wireless network is a key component of any strategy to keep your organization's valuable intellectual property secure.
4) Keeps operations humming - All the potential problems discussed thus far - from the minor threat of college kids downloading movies on your organization's network to the more serious issue of hackers targeting your network specifically (or using your network to commit crimes) - have the possible result of interrupting your organization's operations.
Again, depending on the specific nature of your organization this can lead to lost profits, drastically reduced productivity, or, in some cases, even injury or loss of life. As wireless networking becomes more deeply ingrained in organizational operations, a secure wireless network is essential to ensure consistently productive and efficient operations.
5) Improves network monitoring ability - Along with any wireless network security strategy comes an increasing tool kit for monitoring network usage. Even if the security is as simple as a WPA passkey, you can track who has received the key, line that up with MAC addresses in the access point log, and use that information to track usage and spot unauthorized access.
More robust security solutions, such as RADIUS or TACAS+ authentication servers, offer even more fine-grain access controls and tracking capacity.
In the early days of WiFi, an organization could often get away with leaving their wireless network unsecured in one form or another. Nowadays, as the environment has gotten more savvy, a secure wireless network is essential to your organizations networking strategy.