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e-business: It's time to make war on the war chalkers.

Byline: Steve Pain Technology Editor

Technology experts at Hammond Suddards Edge are warning Birmingham businesses to be on the lookout for warchalking.

E-commerce solicitor Charlotte Colman said: 'Many people have not heard of warchalking as it is relatively new in the UK, but businesses need to familiarise themselves with it and, more importantly, protect themselves against it.'

Historically, computer networks have been linked by physical cables and wires. But recently there has been a growth in 'wireless' computer networks that use radio waves to transmit data.

Warchalking is the act of looking for these wireless networks and placing chalk symbols on walls and pavements to let people know where they can access the network.

Ms Colman explains: 'If a company's network is open - is on and not secure - anyone nearby with a compatible computer can access the company's network and the Internet.

'People can inadvertently come across these open networks. However, there are those who actively seek them out and it is these people who have begun the warchalking craze, leaving symbols with details of network connections for other users.'

She added: 'Many argue that warchalking is not theft since theft involves taking something from someone which prevents them from using it.

'Using someone's wireless network does not actually 'take' anything but warchalking can be used for harmful activities such as crashing someone's computer, looking at their files or preventing them from using the Internet. The unauthorised access is also contrary to the Computer Misuse Act.'

However, as Ms Colman explains, this is not the only reason that companies should be worried about the craze.

'Companies need to protect themselves from warchalkers for a number of reasons. Warchalking poses a real threat to the security of a company's computer systems and data.

'There is also a risk of damaging customer or client relations if they discovered that the company's system was not secure.

'Companies also need to bear in mind their liability under data protection legislation. Under this companies have an obligation to 'adopt appropriate technical and organisational measures' against unauthorised accessing and use of personal data. But companies can protect themselves.

Ms Colman said: 'The easiest way is to secure the system. Don't assume that any computer system you buy is automatically secure. Systems come with default user names and passwords and many of these default settings are freely available on the Internet. Changing these makes your system more secure.'
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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