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Wireless Network Safety

Last Updated:  5/19/11 5:00:02 AM 8373-8193-5000

The wireless network at Arizona State University is open and available, allowing easy access to the Internet from anywhere, anytime. However, because ASU's wireless network is not password protected, it's classified as an "unsecured" network.

A secured network is password protected and information is encrypted between the host (laptops, mobile phones with wireless network capabilities, and other wireless devices) and the wireless access point (WAP for short). That little lock symbol you often see next to the name of available wireless networks indicates that a wireless network is secure and password protected.

The Positives

  • Network is more secure against users trying to capture transmissions between hosts and WAPs

  • The network may not be visible to a user who isn't associated with the network or who isn't informed of the network's presence

The Negatives

  • The type of encryption may limit access to certain users (e.g. only those with wireless cards capable of the network encryption scheme)

An unsecured network is an open network without password protection or encryption from the host to the WAP. These types of networks are often found in public places, such as coffee shops with Wi-Fi access, some airports and the ASU campuses.

The Positives

  • The network is easy to access and is open to members of the public without requiring a password

  • Almost every type of wireless card is capable of accessing an unsecured network because of the lack of requirements that encryption may have otherwise placed on it

The Negatives

  • The network is open and anyone can use it and potentially see what everyone else is transmitting

Think of connecting to ASU's wireless network as if you were inside a glass house.

The traffic transmitted on an unsecured wireless network is open and out there. Checking homework, submitting papers, and browsing the Web are considered tasks that are common on the University network, and you wouldn't care too much if someone saw you performing these tasks from outside the glass house.

But private tasks, such as checking bank account statements, paying tuition, making online purchases with credit cards or signing into websites housing personal information, could expose you to someone looking into the glass house who could compromise your personal information. It's important to know how to use wireless networks safely and to keep your best interests in mind at all times.

Basic wireless safety tips include:

  • Download and update anti-viral software, preferably one that scans Internet traffic as it passes to and from the host system (i.e. Malwarebytes, Avast!)

  • Avoid checking confidential accounts or making personal transactions online when using a wireless connection

  • Use a strong Web browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome for additional security

  • Use SSLVPN to securely connect to ASU resources from off campus.

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