Home > Articles > Security > General Security and Privacy

  • Print
  • + Share This
Like this article? We recommend

From Stalkers to Attackers

After walking inside the building, Fred and Joan noted from the front desk registry that Diversified Financials was located on the first and second floors of the building. A variety of smaller companies were located on the third floor, some of which had succumbed to the dot-com financial meltdown. By sitting on the leopard skin couch in the empty reception area of a defunct technology company located on the third floor, Fred and Joan determined that they could get a strong signal from one of the DF access points, probably on the second or first floor.

Mistake #2

Like many companies, Diversified Financials didn't realize that their wireless signals were leaking through their walls, ceilings, and floors. An attacker can get access on the street outside, from the basement, or from several floors above an access point. While cement and steel attenuate the wireless signals to some extent, they don't block the signals! A carefully designed wireless infrastructure architecture can minimize the signal leakage by using directional antennas. However, truly secure wireless infrastructures must recognize that signal bleed is possible, and provide additional security controls, as we'll explore in the next mistake.

From their vantage point on the third floor, Fred and Joan set up their laptops to start gathering data from the wireless network. Using their NetStumbler logs, they noted that their target was using Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), a mechanism for securing wireless LAN data. While WEP offers an additional layer of security, several flaws have been discovered in the protocol that allows its encryption keys to be cracked if enough data can be gathered. To crack a WEP key, the attackers must use a tool to gather encrypted data, such as the wireless sniffer AirSnort.

Using AirSnort, the attacker must sniff a large amount of encrypted data from the network, often in the neighborhood of 500MB or more of data, which can take several hours to gather. While Joan's laptop chugged away gathering data and cracking the WEP key, Fred decided to look at his NetStumbler logs a little more carefully. In addition to the DF SSIDs, he also noticed two more access points very close by, both with SSIDs set to the default value for Cisco access points, "tsunami." These access points didn't even have WEP enabled, making them trivial to break through.

Mistake #3

In addition to the WEP-enabled access points on its network, Diversified Financials included access points that didn't use WEP. While WEP doesn't provide bulletproof security (as we shall soon see), it does raise the bar against casual attackers. An organization's access point configuration should include the activation of WEP and the distribution of appropriate WEP keys.

After using AirSnort to sniff about 500MB of WEP-encrypted data from the Diversified Financials network in about eight hours, Fred and Joan were able to determine a WEP key. Now, they could gain access to the Diversified Financials network via a WEP-enabled access point, and through two "tsunami" access points that didn't use WEP. The choice was theirs.

Mistake #4

Diversified Financials used a wireless solution that didn't periodically rotate WEP keys. Recent wireless LAN products have included modifications to the WEP key-exchange algorithms that automatically update WEP keys on a periodic basis. By continuously rotating WEP keys, an organization can minimize the exposure to an attacker who cracks WEP keys.

With the WEP key cracked, Fred and Joan configured their systems to use this key to communicate with one of the DF access points. With the proper WEP key in place, Fred and Joan set up their laptop to use the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to automatically get an address on the network. The access point not only gave Fred and Joan an address, it also allowed them complete, unfiltered access to the network.

Mistake #5

This is one of the biggest mistakes made by Diversified Financials. They didn't provide a strongly encrypted and authenticated method for gaining access to their network via wireless LANs. Organizations using wireless LAN technology should require all wireless connections to be sent through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) gateway device and firewall. VPN client software should be installed on all PCs and laptops requiring wireless access. The VPN should provide strong authentication and encryption from the VPN client to the VPN gateway. The VPN gateway should be located between the wireless access point and the protected internal network. The firewall should be configured to filter incoming connections, to ensure that only valid services (such as email or web access) are allowed, with all other services being blocked. With this type of architecture, all data being sent on the wireless LAN must first go through the VPN and then the firewall before being allowed on the corporate network.

After gaining access to the network, Joan and Fred began exploring the systems by using a network-vulnerability scanning tool, such as the popular Nessus scanner. The Nessus tool discovered several vulnerable machines, from which Fred and Joan were able to gather very sensitive data. They retrieved a smorgasbord of interesting insider data from the Diversified Financials network, including emails about planned mergers and acquisitions, financial performance numbers that were to be publicly disclosed the following week, and sensitive customer information such as account numbers, balances, and holdings.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020