October 04, 2002
InforWorld on WiFi and Warchalking

Industry publication InfoWorld published a couple of interesting quotes this morning:

First, their ethics correspondent Carlton Vogt is trying to build a case against 'warchalking':

My initial reaction to the idea was the same one I imagine most people would have -- I was against it. That probably stems from some kind of a Puritan ethic buried deep within most of us that it's simply wrong for someone to get something for nothing. We just don't like that idea and will come up with all sorts of reasons -- invent them if necessary -- to prove that it's wrong.
HUH??? The article goes on, though, exmplaining how sharing your cable/broadband connection over WiFi is not the same as if someone taps your telephone line. Vogt generally adresses the core ethical issue related to involuntary sharing of wifi bandwith:
Part of the problem is that many people, as well as businesses and government agencies, have not put sufficient protection on their wireless networks, allowing the practice of walk-by wireless users to flourish. In fact, the Secret Service has begun its own form of wardriving and warchalking in Washington in an effort to find government agencies -- especially critical ones -- with open and exposed wireless connections.

However, as long as the walk-by users aren't accessing the open Internet connections to do anything harmful or illegal, I'm having a hard time figuring out why someone would think it unethical. It would seem that those people who want to secure their networks can, and should, do so. Then we could assume that those who leave their networks available to warchalkers on purpose -- as some people are reported to do -- don't really mind sharing their resources with others.

Next article from the same source deals with 'Cowboy' WLANs letting industry down. This, I'm sure, is a temporary problem; if people prefer paying silly amounts per month go ahead - personally, I'll settle for the free hotspots where they can be found and handle my own security (Trillian SecureIM, SSH, etc)...

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It is like starting a radio station but only wanting a specific location to be able to listen to it. Thanks for the very interesting read. Really got me thinking. My short thought is what's the point of having a wireless office? You still have to install the wireless ethernet card, and what conveniences are you really giving your employees? The ability to work in the lunch room?

Posted by: davidj on October 4, 2002 03:05 PM

Davidj, a lot of companies have employees with laptops, for example, and can both save wiring-cost as well as introduce flexibility for the employees (e.g. bring laptops to meeting rooms etc without hazzleing with wires).

If implemented securely (e.g. have access points outside internal network firewall) it can also be an offer to visitors (employees from other locations og guests from other companies).

There's some more to read on WiFi here:

Posted by: andersja on October 4, 2002 03:20 PM

Hello, my new best blogging friend, and apparently also my most informed and internet knowledgable blogging friend!

Let's play it this way. I have worked in large corporate environments and small. Currently in a small environment, so I have to wonder whether the cost and the security make wireless worth it.

I totally understand the wireless option when it comes to pda's or pocket pc's. But as a former consultant for a law firm in 50 story building shared by other law firms, the security aspect would make me wait another 2 years before even thinking of investing.

As far as guests with laptops, most will not have a wireless card and will probably go with two options, plugging into a wireless-or-not hub, or plugging in a wireless card. We would hope that the guest is running dhcp and easily connects. However, we can't assume that every guest would be set up this way.

My fear on the whole issue is that the examples are too perfect-world-ish. The technology is there, but is the perfect world?

(this is the longest comment I have ever left! I am so glad I joined blogsnob!)

Posted by: davidj on October 4, 2002 05:29 PM

Thanks for your comments, davidj :-)

Deploying WiFi in shared office spaces (e.g. like you mention; a building with other companies on other floors) and for organizations dealing with particularly sensitive information definitely introduces additional challenges.

I can agree with your points on maturity: not a lot (if any) secured, mature Wi-fi solutions for corporate environments are available, and not a lot of laptops have WiFi capabilities, although a lot of new ones currently offered have it (like the Apple TiBook, some new Dells, Compaqs etc). If I was a company purchasing new laptops for my employees right now; I'd definitely look into "futureproofing" by having WiFi enabled -- even if I didn't deploy WiFi in the office, having WiFi capabilities would be invaluable for frequently travelling employees (and that's one of the reasons you're buying them laptops in the first place; right? ;-)

Posted by: andersja on October 5, 2002 01:03 AM
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