than half of businesses in Belfast with wireless computer networks
fail to take basic security precautions, according to a survey. The
technology allows computers in a building to communicate without
the need for connecting cables.
However, a wireless network that is not
protected can provide a back door into a company's computer
system, leaving sensitive material vulnerable.
A survey found 54% of Belfast firm's
wireless networks were not encrypted.
Wireless or wi-fi networks have become
hugely popular over the last few years in offices because they are
easy to set up and make going online much more convenient.
About 2,000 networks across seven cities
in the UK and Ireland were surveyed by computer firm Newell and
Managing director Conrad Simpson said
would-be hackers could use basic equipment such as a standard
laptop with a wireless network card to detect vulnerabilities.
"This was the second time we had
done it, and Belfast certainly saw a marked improvement but it was
still pretty damning in terms of the uptake of security," he
In Dublin, 71% of firms surveyed had
unsecured systems while the average was 61%.
Graeme Pinkney of internet security
company Symantec said it was an "ever growing" threat.
"Hacker communities will try to
listen in to this information, so it's a push to try and keep up
with the technology and enforce security," he said.
Mr Pinkney said educating businesses
about the risks was the key to tackling the problem.
"Out-of-the-box installations of
these systems are too easy to do," he said.
Mr Simpson and Mr Pinkney were speaking
ahead of a conference in Belfast aimed at outlining the potential
risks of wireless networks.
Their findings mirror an international
survey published earlier this month.
The survey of wi-fi networks in London,
Frankfurt, New York and San Francisco by RSA Security found more
than a third had basic security features turned off.
Many firms were simply turning on their
wireless net access points and used default settings that anyone
familiar with the technology could easily find out, the
Some did not turn on the encryption that
scrambles data traffic between users and the access point helping
them go online.