Wireless data security on open networks might not be mutually exclusive after all

Wireless data security on open networks might not be mutually exclusive after all New open-source software could make it possible for businesses like coffee shops and airports to offer open wireless access to visitors without running the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks and eavesdroppers stealing personal user data, Dark Reading reported this week.

The concept is known as Secure Open Wireless Access, the news source said, and it was rolled out earlier this month at the Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas. SOWA focuses on making the wireless SSID more of a trusted entity than it has been to date. A frequently used hijacking technique, according to Dark Reading, is the creation of an alternate WLAN with the same name as the legitimate network, which allows hackers to intercept traffic.

However, with SOWA, an authentication system uses a unique identifier to ensure that access points are legitimate, the news source reported. The technology is still under development, and the team has as yet only been able to build a version of it for use with Linux, though Windows and Mac versions are said to be in the works.

The concept is similar to that used by SSL certificate authorities to verify the integrity of connections between websites and browsers, experts say.