Westchester County, New York, a suburb of New York City, may become the first area in the country to require wireless networks to be secured. Wi-Fi hot spots, such as those found in coffee shops, book stores, and recreational areas are popular not only with average citizens, but also with crackers seeking to collect credit card data and other personal information.
Westchester County Executive, Andy Spano, proposed a new law this past week to protect the public from crimes, such as identity theft and other consumer fraud. The law, if enacted by the county’s Board of Legislators, would require commercial businesses, including internet cafes, to take fundamental security precautions to protect customer information from being acquired by computer crackers and personal identity thieves.
According to the county’s press release, “Spano and Norman Jacknis, the county’s chief information officer, took a laptop computer equipped with easily available software and drove around downtown White Plains [last week] in search of vulnerable networks.” The press release also reported that the Department of Information Technology performed the same survey and came across 248 wireless hot spots in less than a half an hour of driving down Westchester Avenue and Main Street in White Plains. Out of those, 120, or almost half, lacked any visible security at all.”
The law would require all commercial businesses that use wireless networks and maintain personal information to have secure networks that protect the public from potential identity theft and other potential threats such as computer viruses and data corruption.
This is a good first step toward encouraging data security practices.
Initially, it appears that the law will also affect home offices, and it may even affect wireless telephone networks, as these, while not specifically Wi-Fi, are wireless networks. If a legal challenge results in telephone services being wrapped up into this law, wouldn’t that be a major hassle?
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Westchester County Government Press Release