London beats New York, loses to Paris
London is the most wireless city in a recent survey as detailed on The Register with some 12,276 access points spotted during the survey, New York has 3,000 less.
The survey found that 55% of the all the access points it saw were associated with home networks, and that in London some 90% of Londoners use some form of encryption to secure their network, against 80% of businesses. The security level is interesting, in that in Paris 75% of home users used advanced encryption methods, versus 48% in London. An odd statistic is that in New York 61% of home users used the better encryption standards, but only one or two percent of business networks. For those keen on looking into the survey results deeper the 2008 and 2007 results can be found at www.rsa.com.
The breakdown for London and the type of encryption used shows 44% use WEP, and 37% use WPA-PSK (the standard WPA system). WPA and its more recent WPA2 standards are what people should ideally be using to secure their wireless network, but remember that these are only as strong as the security key chosen, so ensure it is not one that can be guessed (avoid family names, addresses, car registration etc). WEP encryption can be broken in a matter of minutes if someone has the appropriate software but with the number of open wireless networks those looking for free access are likely to simply move on.
The figure of some 20% of London businesses having an open wireless network might actually be because of open wireless access points in reception so visitors can check their own email, and so long as this wireless link has no connection to the companies internal network this represents minimal risk to company data.
As for WEP still being so popular, the reluctance of people to spend money on new wireless hardware and the fact that older devices may only be able to connect to a WEP encrypted network is likely to be a big factor.