GTEC 2010: Why aren’t wireless routers secured by default?

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddard wants to know why wireless routers are not secure by default.

Many people purchase a wireless router, plug it in then simply connect their computer to the one called Linksys with virtually no security. This leaves the router available for anyone to use, particularly those who might have malicious intentions.

Or users do secure their router but use an outdated and easily cracked security protocol like WEP.

Speaking at a GTEC keynote, Stoddard said manufacturers should include a setup process that “takes users through a series of steps to make sure their home network is secure.”

This is just one of many privacy concerns that have emerged in the digital age leading the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to start work on reports which will recommend updates to Canadian privacy laws.

Another issue affecting both the private and public sector: secure transactions.

Stoddard suggested that e-government and e-commerce transactions should be set up so that they only take place over secured devices.

“Every chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” she said, noting that the best security practices by public and private organizations fall apart when used by someone with no firewall or virus protection.

There are many other issues that suggest privacy laws need updating, including newer genetic and biometric technology and identity protection.

While Stoddard said the Government of Canada should create the model for privacy laws, it must work with the private sector in order to generate a shared vision of privacy.

“We can’t do it alone,” she said.

In the meantime, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has been working to encourage tech companies like Google and Facebook to consider privacy first, rather than trying to clean up a mess after the fact – like Google’s much maligned launch of Buzz which inadvertently made Gmail users’ contacts public.

“Think of privacy before you launch a service,” she said.