Wi-Fi Networks Get Security Advice from Google

Posted by: T. Lacoma on Monday, April 15th, 2013

Those worried that their own wireless networks may be subject to attack or unauthorized viewing will soon have lessons on how to increase security, courtesy one of the biggest names in the digital world.

Google will soon be making the wireless world a little safer, thanks to a lawsuit settlement over its illegal use of Wi-Fi networks via Street View cars. The Street View cars tapped into personal Wi-Fi networks without authorization, and 38 different state attorneys joined in filing a class-action lawsuit. The results could benefit American wireless networks as a whole.

In addition to the $7 million fine — and this is where the ruling grows interesting — Google has agreed to create a series of initiatives to encourage the adoption of Wi-Fi privacy measures in the United States.

Internal and External Security Plans

Part of the settlement will have Google create a “privacy week” for its employees to raise awareness, with extra, appropriate certification for some employees to ensure that the Street View fiasco never occurs again. Google lawyers, managers, and developers will receive regular refresher courses on how to use data while preserving privacy among all its users.

Externally, Google is required to reach out to Internet users with more general instructions designed to teach the average Wi-Fi owner how to protect systems. Of particular note, the company must create a YouTube video showing how to encrypt data on wireless networks. The YouTube video should be ubiquitous, since Google is also required to use its own immense platform to promote the clip for at least two years. The video will probably be a natural evolution of the company’s current “Good to Know” guide on online safety and protection, but in a more digestible format.

In addition to the video, Google must also run a series of advertisements in each of the 38 states represented by the class-action lawsuit. These ads will offer educational tips on making wireless systems more secure and protecting sensitive information in the online world.

All these instructional materials are due within a few months, turning the summer of 2013 into a crash course of Wi-Fi and mobile security. While Google’s plans are not yet known, the company’s advice is likely to include the best defenses against wireless hacking:

Using WPA2 encryption: There is no excuse to be using WEP or even WPA in the modern Wi-Fi age. WPA2 provides the most promising security protocols for home wireless networks, and nearly all current Wi-Fi routers and adapters offer the technology.

Limiting access to specific devices: Modern wireless devices, from phones to desktops, have codes (MACs or machine access codes) that can be used to identify them. Wireless routers have an option to limit access to only devices that bear corresponding codes, effectively allowing you to limit access to only your family, close friends, or someone else using their devices.

Leave a Reply