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Am I Being Spied Upon?

Posted on 2014-01-05
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Last Modified: 2016-01-02
I have a new PC (Windows 7) that contains a wireless networking card. There's an icon in the lower right of the screen showing which nearby networks are being setected along with their signal strengths. My concern is: if I'm able to "see" them, are they able to "see" me too? Am I vulnerable? Thanks...
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Question by:johnb121
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15 Comments
 
LVL 24

Expert Comment

by:aadih
ID: 39757563
No.  Seeing is not access. Are you using encryption (e.g., WPA, WPA2)? If so, you are safe.
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 39757565
They will be able to see your wireless router's SSID, but if you have set it up with a strong WPA2-AES passphrase, and disabled WPS on the router, you should be safe. Although you can also disable the SSID from being shown, that doesn't increase the security, so you shouldn't do that.
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LVL 35

Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39757568
In this case, "them" are wireless routers/access points.

If (an only if) you connect to a router, ALL your traffic will pass through that router.

So, if you only connect to your router, you're not being directly "spied" upon.

But, due to the way wireless works, every packet you send can be (and usually is) received by every other wireless router/client in range. Most will simply discard packets that are not meant for them, but you can setup a monitoring station (using, for ex, something like this: http://www.riverbed.com/products-solutions/products/network-performance-management/wireshark-enhancement-products/Wireless-Traffic-Packet-Capture.html).

Bottom line: use WPA2 with a strong password and change it every few weeks. This should be enough protection against neighbors spying on you.

HTH,
Dan
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LVL 18

Expert Comment

by:John Gates, CISSP
ID: 39757569
Well let's qualify this.  If you can see them then there is definitely a possibility that others could gain access to your system.  As was mentioned above (And actually I would use WPA2).  Your wireless can be easily hacked if the individual has access to tools and knowledge to do so.  If you are not using wireless at home then your best bet is to disable the wireless adapter.  With wireless there is always the possibility your system could be compromised.  If you are concerned about it then disabling it takes the entry point out of the equation.


Hope this helps!
-D-
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LVL 24

Expert Comment

by:aadih
ID: 39757580
Not using wireless router, these days, is impractical.

Use a strong encryption. Additionally, you could also use MAC address filtering, that is, allow access to your router from devices in your MAC access list.

Enjoy your WiFi (and worry not).
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Author Comment

by:johnb121
ID: 39757591
I'm afraid I wasn't clear. I have NO network. All I have is a new PC with a wireless networking card and antenna. My internet connection is wired...through a Comcast modem to the PC.

I unscrewed the antenna when it finally dawned on me that i may be vulnerable. Is there a way to shut off transmissions from my wireless card???
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LVL 35

Accepted Solution

by:
Dan Craciun earned 250 total points
ID: 39757593
Yup.  Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network Connections. Right click->Disable
Disable NIC
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LVL 18

Assisted Solution

by:John Gates, CISSP
John Gates, CISSP earned 250 total points
ID: 39757599
Not using a wireless router greatly reduces the attack surface of your network.  Wireless networks are useful but there is varied risk in using one.  If he has a one pc network and no other devices that communicate on the network then the best thing for him to do is turn off the wireless network card.   But yes if you are using WiFi in your home then by all means use WPA2 and don't lose sleep over it, but know that participating in a wireless network increases your chances of your data being compromised from outside individuals.  So main point is wired network communication is far more secure than wireless network communication.

-D-
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LVL 24

Expert Comment

by:aadih
ID: 39757600
Yes. Disable your wireless card (re: device manager). You could also turn off your radio. Look for instructions for your PC make and model. On many models, there is F<n> button to do that.
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LVL 18

Expert Comment

by:John Gates, CISSP
ID: 39757634
Disabling the wireless card will prevent any attempt to access your system.  There is no need to turn the radio off.

-D-
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LVL 83

Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39757644
I'd recommend turning your wireless off and as @aadih said, there is a button to do that on most recent laptops.  On some HP laptops, turning the wireless off is necessary to keep it from interfering with the wired connection.  I think that's bad software but it happened anyway.
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LVL 24

Expert Comment

by:aadih
ID: 39757646
Yes, dimante, but this seems to be a case of over concern. Hence, why not (if not using wireless anyway, what use is the radio?)?
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LVL 18

Expert Comment

by:John Gates, CISSP
ID: 39757673
If it was a laptop then turning the radio off would provide some power savings...  On a desktop not really a concern.  That is why I said that.

-D-
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