Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

802.11b - The People's Internet?

By ka9dgx in Internet
Thu May 09, 2002 at 03:39:25 PM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

Wireless networking (ala 802.11b) has reached a critical point in its evolution. We now face a choice in how it gets used. We can see it as a cool but insecure toy, or as a tool to connect to each other in new and unexpected ways. Since this is a new technology, we have the opprotunity to help influence how this technology is preceived and utilized.

The press, in stories like this, (Chicago Tribune, free subscription required) correctly point out that 802.11b wireless offers more connectivity than some IT managers might expect. The fact that some IT professions were stupid enough to put a wireless gateway inside a firewall is alarming, but easily correctable. The impression left with the reader is that wireless networks are a huge security hole. We now have to contend with this image, and make things right.

I believe that we have an enormous opportunity presented to us on a silver platter. We find ourselves with a networking technology approved by the FCC, with cheap transceivers, on store shelves, ready for our use. We need to take this technology and run with it, now!

We need to take 802.11b, IP6, and do the work required to build a robust, redundant, mesh of wireless access points. Projects like Consume.net are definitely headed in the right direction. We need to improve handoff strategies and routing. There may also be improvements to DNS that could happen as part of this movement.

A pragmatic approach
We should be pragmatic, and assume that wireless will be public, and sniffable. We should make this very clear to those we set up with wireless gear. If you need security, you can only achieve it through end to end encryption, and we should not settle for less. To assume the network will keep your data private is very silly, indeed.

Act now, before it's too late
The press is still trying to decide how to portray this technology. The industry hype machines are still in low gear. The amazing thing is we have a working, affordable new technology you can get on the store shelves, and yet it's still fair game for anyone to set public perception and expectations of this technology. These expectations will have a real effect on the actual outcome.

The fact is, that you, are probably the person to be asked what you think about this technology. You, for this brief window, get to make a huge difference. We should help set public opinion on this subject. We can, if we all just use a positive tone, and fairly address the issues in a fair consistent manner.

My view, which I hope you share, is that these ideas are core, and should be agreeable to all.

Wireless has no incremental cost
There are no per byte fees to be paid to anyone for data sent over the air. For community networks, this is obviously a very good thing. For corporate networks, the additional load on the existing wire based connection should be considered.
Wireless itself is not secure, and doesn't need to be
I believe that it's impossible to secure a wireless network. It's reasonable to assume it isn't, as proof of security is impossible.
Allowing public access to corporate Internet connections is a public service
In addition to makeing it easier for visitors to connect to the internet, providing a low cost, high value service to the nearby public could be good public relations.
Putting wireless inside firewalls is dumb
As pointed out above, wireless networks don't respect physical boundaries, don't let yourself fall into a false sense of security.
802.11b is here, it works, and it's deployed
The Wi-Fi™ folks have done a great job of help to get things working. There are faster things, which might make it down the pike, but not for a while, after which the game is set in stone.
There you have it, a few simple points, to put things in a positive light.

If you decide to do this at work:

  • Check out the free wireless network projects that are already underway for tips, tricks, etc.
  • Test it, get familiar with the real world performance, quirks, problems, etc.
  • Don't trust it inside a firewall, ever
  • Find and test a good tunneling protocol suite that you can live with to secure your connections through
  • Explain all of the risks and benefits and make damned sure of Management 'Buy-In' before you open up your wireless network to the public

If you decide to do this at home:

  • Test it locked down, get familiar with the real world performance, quirks, problems, etc. Use MAC address security and WEP until you're ready to open things up. It certainly isn't perfect, but it's likely to be good enough for the average home user.
  • If you don't enable WEP, and go public without tunnelling, live with the fact you may be sniffed, just like with your phone, etc.
  • Explain all of the risks and benefits to your spouse/parents/roommates, and make damned sure of 'Buy-In' before you open up your wireless network to the public
  • Welcome your neighbors, share pictures, MP3 collections, videos, etc.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


o No - Never 4%
o Tell me more 20%
o I'm planning to purchase 18%
o Running, but locked down 24%
o Running and open to the public 16%
o I wrote NetStumbler 2%
o 802.11a is faster 7%
o I can get Email on my Pager (and didn't read the article) 4%

Votes: 81
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o stories like this,
o Consume.ne t
o Wi-Fi&trad e;
o Also by ka9dgx

Display: Sort:
802.11b - The People's Internet? | 36 comments (26 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
Potential (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by Talez on Thu May 09, 2002 at 12:04:46 AM EST

I've been looking at hooking the community up with wireless for awhile now. I see two things that need to happen before I can look at accepting 802.11b

1) Price. Over here a USB Wireless adapter still costs well over $150. This needs to drop below about $70 before I can think of selling the technology to my friends and neighbours. They also need to make a genuine PCI card and not a "PCMCIA in a cradle" design.

2) How do you deal with bandwidth hogs? That 11mbps shared ethernet pipe will look more like a trickle once the neighbourhood kids start throwing around hundreds of megs of games to each other to play over the wireless LAN.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est

I just bought one (none / 0) (#19)
by Sir Rastus Bear on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:13:43 PM EST

They also need to make a genuine PCI card

There are at least two of these on the market. I just bought a D-Link 520 to run in my Linux box, since apparently the drivers don't support USB.

It did cost around $80 US, so about $160 over there.

"It's the dog's fault, but she irrationally yells at me that I shouldn't use the wood chipper when I'm drunk."
[ Parent ]

you'll make your money back in no time... (none / 0) (#28)
by hazehead on Thu May 09, 2002 at 06:30:27 PM EST

> 1) Price. Over here a USB Wireless adapter > still costs well over $150.

Saving $35-50/mo from avoiding DSL/cable charges will pay for that pretty quick.

> 2) How do you deal with bandwidth hogs?

Look into nocat.net. It's open-source captive portal software that allows you to manage your wireless "node". Get the right card and you can make your linux box an access point (no ad-hoc garbage either... a real AP)

[ Parent ]

software access point (none / 0) (#32)
by mikeliu on Fri May 10, 2002 at 12:52:35 AM EST

"Look into nocat.net. It's open-source captive portal software that allows you to manage your wireless "node". Get the right card and you can make your linux box an access point (no ad-hoc garbage either... a real AP)"

Wow, that's realy something.  Do you have any experience actually using this?  Any comments on how this compares versus a real access point?

[ Parent ]

Why no PCMCIA? (none / 0) (#30)
by tzanger on Fri May 10, 2002 at 12:22:29 AM EST

They also need to make a genuine PCI card and not a "PCMCIA in a cradle" design.

Why? You want the cost down, let them manufacture one product and get the quantity up. The antenna connectors on the PCMCIA cards (I use Orinoco cards) are no looser than those on PCI, and I liek the idea of being able to yank the card out for service/exchange without having to open the case. Some of the cheap PCMCIA-PCI adapters are not hot-swap though so you still need to turn the system off)

[ Parent ]
Perhaps in 10 years this is the Robots Internet (none / 0) (#6)
by turtleshadow on Thu May 09, 2002 at 01:21:09 AM EST

I figure that robotic and mechanical devices will benefit more from wireless interaction than any human. It's their perfect medium as their ability to deal with it will be better in the long run.
Humans are far to easily distracted to ensure their comm links are clear and care to much about privacy. Robots with decent AI on the other hand will sit all day and to ensure they get the proper communication from the correct sources. They will likely patch themselves before the human S.A. is warned to do something.

Humans don't mechically check all digitial sigs before patching or doing any communication; therefore have no hope of keeping up with wireless vulnerabilities.

No need to go it alone. (Free help!) (none / 0) (#7)
by quasipalm on Thu May 09, 2002 at 02:29:05 AM EST

For folks in my home town, please check out seattlewireless.net. They also provide links to several other wireless projects in North America, Europe, and Australia. Most of these groups will provide help and general know-how. Some provide man power and a few will even help find funding for important links.

This really is an important project too: With the internet becoming more corporatized and more controlled, wireless will keep data communication uncensored. (insert rallying, power to the people-esque remark here.)

I like wireless networking (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by tombuck on Thu May 09, 2002 at 06:57:34 AM EST

A friend of mine has a wireless network set up at home, and has his apple laptop fitted with an internet wireless networking card.

It's fantastic, although my main gripe is the lack of even a single wire - I mean, you get used to constantly checking for a wire when you move a laptop around, but with this it's obviously a fruitless search.

Now, why can't we have a wireless power supply as well?

Give me yer cash!

I'd like a screen... (none / 0) (#21)
by Silent Chris on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:29:57 PM EST

...that displays holographically at 50 inches, so I don't have to bang the seat ahead of me with my 14" display on the plane --- but we can't have everything.  At least, not yet.

[ Parent ]
If you decide to do this at home (4.66 / 3) (#10)
by Vs on Thu May 09, 2002 at 07:19:05 AM EST

...be sure to check with your provider's TOS.

They surely don't including offering your excess bandwidth to other people.

This will get lots of people into trouble.
Where are the immoderate submissions?

Prove it... (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by ShadowNode on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:53:35 PM EST

It's not really detectable if it's behind a NAT gateway.

[ Parent ]
Actually it is. (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by tzanger on Fri May 10, 2002 at 12:24:52 AM EST

It's not really detectable if it's behind a NAT gateway.

I can see what ports things come out from and go to. .Most NAT schemes use high port ranges, while almost every "normal" computer user sits in the 1024-10240 range (since there aren't many open connections).

No it's not rock-solid but ISPs don't need to have rock-solid proof to turf you, either. And that, I am certain, is in their TOS.

[ Parent ]
Passive OS fingerprinting (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by El Volio on Wed May 15, 2002 at 12:23:48 PM EST

If they really care, there are other ways to do it, too, such as passive OS fingerprinting. It's probably cost-prohibitive until the excess usage gets high enough that the business need gets high enough.

[ Parent ]
Of course it is! (none / 0) (#33)
by Vs on Fri May 10, 2002 at 04:30:13 AM EST

If you connect from the WLAN even through nat to a remote site, of course the remote sees where you're coming from (this includes simple things like HTTP, too).

You'd need IP onion-routing to cover your trail.

I think that's a common misconception that people think they're untraceable. Of course your provider is not interested in getting the guy using your WLAN, they are after you, as gateway administrator.
Where are the immoderate submissions?
[ Parent ]

flex your buying power, and support the locals! (none / 0) (#27)
by hazehead on Thu May 09, 2002 at 06:20:12 PM EST

Instead of signing up for that default Qwest/MSN dsl bullshit (or a cable modem FTM), signup with your local mom and pop ISP for a DSL line. They'd love to provide you with service you can share.

Lots of ISPs are waking up to a customer's right to share bandwidth. Here's a couple in Portland, OR that not only allow it, but express support for our local community wireless group PersonalTelco.net. Click here for a list of ISPs and their attitudes toward shared neighborhood connections.

[ Parent ]

My network. (4.66 / 3) (#11)
by evilpenguin on Thu May 09, 2002 at 07:21:08 AM EST

I've had a 802.11b access point in my rack for a year now.  It's a very cool technology and I must say that I do quite enjoy wandering about my house, laptop in hand, whilst reading my email and such.

But here's the thing; it's restricted to the two cards that I use.  Why don't I open it up to the public and share this article's oddly ESR-like vision of a communal internet experience?

I live alone, in a semi-suburban neighborhood.  I know some of my neighbors, and they seem good and all, but would I trust people I hardly know on a subnet of my internal network?  Never.  Maybe I'm just paranoid, but it seems a gaping vulnerability to have your network exposed and open right into the streets.  I've gone "war driving" before, and I know I'm not the only one who has.  Would I want my AP to end up on a list of open access connections?  Nope.  Perhaps if I knew one of my neighbors well enough, I would permit their MAC address too... but until that day comes, I'd prefer my network to remain bastioned.
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty

I agree. (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by Rasman on Thu May 09, 2002 at 08:24:32 AM EST

You have to know the people you're letting in. I love my wireless network. I have three roommates and we all have laptops. We compute from all over!

Now when is Apple going to make some sort of waterproof case so I can use my Powerbook in the bath?

[ Parent ]
What's so important on your subnet? (none / 0) (#20)
by Silent Chris on Thu May 09, 2002 at 04:28:37 PM EST

I tend to wonder what's so important on some people's subnets that they have to lock down their home networks.  All I have on mine is a few documents (poetry and stories).  The only time I use credit card numbers and the like is when I'm on the internet, and at that point the sites are using SSL.

Quite frankly, if you have anything that needs to be protected, you shouldn't be using a network anyway.  There is no need for a home network with protection at home.  At work there are financials, business information that needs to be protected by the whole connected world on the internet.  On a home 802.11b, you just have to worry about people 1500 feet (at max) getting at your documents.

[ Parent ]

his internet connection for one thing... (none / 0) (#23)
by pschap on Thu May 09, 2002 at 05:24:14 PM EST

...would you really want some guy getting on to your network and then distributing kiddy porn from an IP address traceable only back to you?

"In 1991, we had almost nothing. We'd only begun building cocks. After just 10 years, we have a very robust, active cock."

[ Parent ]
Ok fine... let's cave in (none / 0) (#24)
by ka9dgx on Thu May 09, 2002 at 05:29:47 PM EST

Screw it, the fight isn't worth it, liberty as a concept is an illusion anyway... I've wasted too much time on this idea already... time to yank the hardware, throw it in the trash, and switch to a job that includes the script "do you want fries with that?"... I'm tired of it all

All people care about is their McJob, and if they get to see Natalie Portman covered with Hot Grits... why bother?

[ Parent ]

I'm just pointing out some of the risks... (none / 0) (#25)
by pschap on Thu May 09, 2002 at 05:35:18 PM EST

...if you can tolerate those risks, go wild.

"In 1991, we had almost nothing. We'd only begun building cocks. After just 10 years, we have a very robust, active cock."

[ Parent ]
The risk of Kiddy Porn (none / 0) (#26)
by ka9dgx on Thu May 09, 2002 at 05:51:57 PM EST

My apologies for the brash tone of my prior comment.

The risk of Kiddie porn being traced to your router does exist, but it's no more of a risk than running almost any OS (especially one written by the script kiddies in Redmond). It seems that pretty much any Tom, Dick or Harry (no pun intended) could take over anything on the InterNet these days.

Are you really likely to have a neighbor use your wireless for spreading Kiddie Porn? No. Is it possible, of course.

The whole idea of forbidden objects is one that sticks in my craw, and always will. It's inconsistent... but that's another rant.

I agree it's possible, but it's not likely.


[ Parent ]

Maybe the intro would read better like: (none / 0) (#16)
by Profane Motherfucker on Thu May 09, 2002 at 10:07:07 AM EST

A spectre is haunting the Internet -- the spectre of 802.11b.

The piece sounds so demanding.

Rate limiting (none / 0) (#29)
by panck on Thu May 09, 2002 at 08:30:02 PM EST

I don't have any 802.11 equipment, but I hope to get a laptop and wifi soon.

I probably wouldn't mind opening my AP up for anybody to use, as long as I could rate-limit everybody else's connection.  

I'm sure it could be done if I used a linux box for NAT, and reduce the load at that point, but is anything like this supported on AP's themselves?  I've never heard of it.  I don't think it would be possible for somebody to just plugin the AP to their cable modem and have this kind of functionality.

Anybody else have knowledge/experience with this particular aspect of it?

WiFi is going down soon.... (none / 0) (#34)
by hoya98 on Fri May 10, 2002 at 04:36:18 PM EST

Due to new lighting technology, wifi networks will be running into severe problems in the near future. Basically, if this new lighting is adopted widely, your wifi network will be utterly useless at nighttime.

Basically the lighting uses the same frequency as WiFi and will interfere with WiFi networks to the point of making them unusable.

Hopefully enough people will get together and fight the new technology before it can be introduced. The FCC here in the U.S. doesn't want to budge.

This was recently discussed on Slashdot.

Only enabling Anon-HTTP? (none / 0) (#35)
by Vs on Sun May 12, 2002 at 10:28:10 AM EST

Has anyone experience with setting up an "open" AP but restricting traffic to HTTP which is directed to one of the open anonymizer proxies?
Where are the immoderate submissions?
802.11b - The People's Internet? | 36 comments (26 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!