Networking

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Why do we still secure wi-fi networks?

Hotels need to open up - security risks are so minimal

Written in the bar of a Barcelona hotel on a Sunday morning after a long week working across the EU and dispatched to silicon.com on the same day via a free wi-fi service.

It's been almost 20 years since I sent my first email, and shortly after that I started mobile working with a laptop sporting a 20MB hard drive and 256K of RAM.

In those days the tools of connection included a set of screwdrivers and a pair of pliers plus leads and crock clips.

There were very few electrical sockets and phone jacks - and no wi-fi at that time. So getting online often meant dismantling a hotel bedroom to get at the phone line, and a dial-up modem at 2.4Kbps or if you could afford it, 9.6Kbps, on an analogue phone.

How different it is today! The tool kit stays at home, I have no dial-up modem, and connecting by wire is unheard of. Wi-fi now seems to be ubiquitous, and if it happens to be down, a 3G dongle does the job nicely. But there has been one big irritation: passwords.

Here is a selection of hotel and airport lounge passwords I have collected over the past year:

  • clv21
  • adm1n
  • default
  • london
  • Chicago
  • fnzg1f1c
  • BWQMH1
  • a6f39e6d
  • Pa55word
  • 59123456
  • HubZPGuest
  • b1338807c8
  • 21430066589
  • planetXpluto299
  • 11363994646798
  • f3bz9mi225hsx3m6

These vary from the short and easy to crack (and possible for someone my age to type in right the first time) through to the very annoying and strong enough to protect Fort Knox.

Worse, getting this information usually means a trip down to the front desk, or a phone call where the receptionist gets it all wrong (several times) and I get very frustrated.

What a waste of time and effort!

Given that wi-fi costs less than a bar of soap...

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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