Wireless Network

There are arguments for and against open wireless network. Some are fond of the idea that an open wireless router is being put to use while others dismiss it. Open wireless movement has been a phenomenon for quite a long time; one might love or hate this idea, but can never ignore it.

In this article, we’ll first have a recap of the arguments that are provided to support the open wireless movement, then we’ll review its disadvantages and finally shed some light on how network interface controllers can aid a wireless network.

Open WiFi benefits

Open wireless has some benefits. As held by the techies, it’s always better to keep the WiFi open because that ensures anybody can access the internet at any time from anywhere. If open wireless becomes a reality, then the way for an open internet would be paved. 3G or 4G data plans are expensive and the network speed depends heavily on how many nodes are being used and where they are located.

Besides, many of us don’t use the total bandwidth that our network providers offer. If we give up some data every month and in exchange open wireless networks are set up everywhere, then we ourselves will be the beneficiaries.

Open WiFi challenges

Even though the benefits are pretty easily graspable, there are some challenges as well. The biggest roadblock to open wireless is security. An unlocked wireless network is assumed to be less secure. Another problem is an encryption doesn’t always come in handy because if someone is looking for opportunities to eavesdrop, then encryption is not a solid defense against it.

In defense of open WiFi, it could be argued the existing protocols such as WPA or WPA2 do not provide the kind of security that they claim to provide. Malicious scripts or spyware may break the defense of WPA2. So open WiFi alone doesn’t pose a serious threat to security as everyone believes it does.

Nevertheless, the advocates of open WiFi fail to take in stride two very important findings; first, even if someone eavesdrops a WPA2 standard wireless network that is encrypted, then he’d have to be in proximity with the person whose WiFi network he aims to hack. Compared to that, open WiFi is pretty susceptible to hacking. Besides, privacy and security are different. An open wireless network may be secure but users might have to compromise with privacy.

Overcoming the challenges

Is it at all possible to overcome the challenges described in this article? Well at this moment, the idea of an open wireless network with encryption facilities appears unfeasible. But it may not remain so in future.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been working on a wireless routing software that’ll make open wireless secure. The firmware was released for download and the router was officially introduced by EFF at the HOPE X Conference in July 2014. The routing software assigns users a password protected WPA2 network along with a smooth web interface so they could configure the router pretty easily.

The router attempted to overcome the open WiFi challenges through an improved network queuing technology. It also claimed to solve the problem of network speed slowing down because of bandwidth sharing, by allowing users to share a bounded chunk of their bandwidth so connection speed never declines.

Although welcoming, such technologies have to travel many miles before users can fully rely on them. When fully improved, the routers will put many users under one WPA2 standard network and they won’t be able to eavesdrop on each other.

So the challenges could be met, but in the future.

Hardware assistance

The performance of a network interface controller (NIC) is key to security. 3G or 4G dongles, lan adapters, etc are NICs. If the NIC renders enhanced performance, then one can use an open wireless network and keep his data secure and private.

There are many ways NICs could be upgraded. The wireless lan performance for example, could be improved by fragmentation. The frames sent by the access point should be larger than the threshold. The fragmentation threshold should be kept 800-1000 and then the number of collisions should be observed. If the number decreases, then it could be inferred less number of collisions taking place, which will improve the performance of WLAN. Similar techniques could be used so NICs perform better.

In a nutshell, open wireless network is not a reality now, but it will be. Today, it has so many shortcomings such as privacy issues, small businesses unwilling to use it, etc. But with time these shortcomings may totally disappear. So we shouldn’t lose patience and wait for the day to come when the internet access from any part of the world, and at any time will no longer be a dream.

Image Courtesy: en.wikipedia.org