Wireless Registers Pose Security Vulnerability

May 03, 2002

Best Buy Co. deactivated its wireless temporary cash registers that transmit information via LAN connections this week after being alerted to a potential security problem via an anonymous posting on a computer-security research mailing list. Cash registers with wireless networks broadcast data to a central computer elsewhere in the store as a radio signal, which carries outside the store. Hackers can listen in on such traffic from outside the store using laptop computers equipped with a special antenna. If the data is not encrypted, they can read it almost as easily as reading e-mail, according to security researchers who study wireless networks.

Networked cash registers allow large retail operations to change prices instantly and track inventory more easily. In addition, they make temporary outdoor “sidewalk” cash registers much easier to install. “Wireless point-of-sale terminals” are on the rise. Kmart announced last year that it planned to install wireless technology in all 2,100 stores. Home Depot has wireless registers in more than 1,200 stores, according to published reports.

Moderator Comment: Do wireless networks have the necessary
safeguards to remain secure? What is the future of wireless networks in retail

We don’t think that the majority of consumers are overly
concerned about Big Brother. Now, the dirty hacker in the parking lot is a completely
different matter. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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