As the popularity of wireless networks in homes and small businesses continues to soar, so do the chances that outsiders will hack unsecured networks and use them for malicious purposes.
Very few home and business owners realize the importance of securing their networks and the risks they incur by not doing so. It is often up to solution providers to solve the problem. Fortunately, several methods and products are available to help mend the holes.
Michael Young, principal at Connected Homes, a San Jose, Calif.-based home integrator, says the starting point is often helping customers realize the implications of not securing their wireless networks.
“You try not to scare people too much, but they need to realize [the impact],” Young says. For example, Young notes that a home’s unsecured wireless network could be used by a neighbor for downloading copyrighted material. It is often difficult to determine who on a network downloaded particular files, so the network owner could be sued by the Recording Industry Association of America or other organizations.
Kevin Bankston, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, says there haven’t yet been cases of homeowners in the United States prosecuted for the activities of other users who access their WLANs to conduct criminal activity. “However, it could lead to that house being the first step in the investigation,” Bankston notes.
In March, an Illinois man was arrested after police noticed him sitting with a laptop in a car outside a nonprofit agency’s building. The man was accessing the Internet through the organization’s wireless network, and was charged with remotely accessing another computer system without the owner’s approval and fined $250.
Small businesses with unsecured WLANs may also be leaving open doors that can lead into the corporate network, says Greg Starr, principal at See-Comm, a New Boston, Texas, integrator. “If someone gets through the WLAN connection, they could potentially get to the company’s servers. These companies are leaving themselves wide open to a number of different types of attacks by not enabling security on their wireless networks,” Starr says.
Even home users are at risk if they access their employers’ secured systems via unsecured wireless networks. Attackers can use the network to gain access to the corporate systems.
One problem is that people generally don’t keep up with changing passwords and settings on their home and SOHO WLANs, says Robert Cox, principal at Cox Network and PC Services, a Bel Air, Md.-based integrator. Integrators can easily boost customers’ WLAN security by disabling SSID and setting up encryption keys to be changed on a regular basis, Cox says. VPNs also are helpful for creating secure remote connections.
Cox notes that the wireless signals in products from some vendors, such as Buffalo Technology, Hawking Technologies and SMC, can be modified so they don’t go beyond the building’s walls. While customers sometimes don’t want the extra expense for such access points, the investment is usually worthwhile.
Aaron Fuhrman, an engineer at Home Technologies, a Bellevue, Wash., integrator, says his company frequently limits the broadcast range of WLANs through power and antenna adjustments. “You can use a directional antenna so it only covers a building instead of radiating the signal in a 360[-degree] pattern,” he explains.
QuickBase Expands Sales Team Functionality
The new application offers Dashboard functionality, a user interface that is becoming very popular among vendors and customers. “It’s a good way for a user to see — quickly — where they stand or where the company stands on areas important to them,” said Jana Eggers, general manager of Intuit QuickBase.
QuickBase, a division of Intuit, has upgraded its hosted-model product to make it easier for salesÂ reps and sales executives — two user groups that often have competing application requirements — to use the sales module.
New functionality in the application, called “Manage Your Sales Team,” includes more advanced configuration, reporting and display tools. Another enhancement aimed specifically at sales reps is the addition of smart, or dynamic, forms that request information during the sales cycle only when necessary.
Time Is Money
“Adoption of a CRM system has traditionally been a tricky thing for a lot of companies to navigate,” Jana Eggers, general manager of Intuit (Nasdaq: INTU)Â QuickBase, told CRM Buyer. “For salespeople in particular, any systemÂ that requires a lot of input to keep a pipeline up to date is — in their view — simply money out of their pocket.”
The forms are designed to extract the minimal amount of data, based on where the rep is during the sales cycle, Eggers said. It doesn’t ask for information at the beginning of the sales cycle that is not necessary, or that the sales rep might not necessarily have at that stage.
For example, dynamic forms only require reps to fill out opportunity qualification questions when the status field changes to “contacted.” In a project management application, a time stamp with the current date can be automatically inserted when the task status field changes to “complete.”
QuickBase has also included interactive functionality in its chart and reporting features. “Users can drill down several layers of data,” Eggers pointed out. “They also have a lot of leeway in how the charts looks or how the data is presented to them.” The new charting functionality includes new chart types, as well as rollover, drill down and customization options.
The new application offers Dashboard functionality, a user interface that is becoming very popular among vendors and customers. “It’s a good way for a user to see — quickly — where they stand or where the company stands on areas important to them,” Eggers said.
QuickBase offers several packaged applications, many of which were upgraded along with Manage Your Sales Team. Manage Multiple Projects, for instance, now offers the ability to import from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)Â Â Project with synchronization capabilities.
Manage a Project and Manage Multiple Projects have been enhanced with new resource allocation functionality, which identifies the workload of resources across projects.
QuickBase releases two major upgrades a year. The last release concentrated on supporting large corporations’ internal business proesses, Eggers said. The current release aims to streamline processes for users.Â