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Glossary: Decoding the jargon

Computer Networking
Computer Security

(CNN) -- Is your Wi-Fi's WEP turned on? What's the difference between bluejacking and bluesnarfing? Do you know your SSID? Get a handle on the details behind the acronyms and jargon that is wireless technology with this Wi-Fi glossary.

Access point: An access point is the connection that ties wireless communication devices into a network. Also known as a base station, the access point is usually connected to a wired network. Most Wi-Fi networks have a range of up to 150 feet but the access point range can be extended through the use of repeaters, which can amplify the network's radio signal.

Bluejacking: Bluejacking is a practice of sending anonymous text messages to mobile users using Bluetooth. Phones that are Bluetooth-enabled can be tweaked to search for other handsets using it that will accept messages sent to them. However, a user can avoid these messages by setting their device to "invisible" or turn off Bluetooth when not using it. Bluetooth is a protocol that allows devices such as mobile phones and laptops to send data to other devices, without wires, over distances of about 30 feet.

Bluesnarfing: A security flaw in Bluetooth that could allow an attacker to access and copy information stored on a mobile phone without the user's knowledge has been dubbed "bluesnarfing." Any information stored on a phone -- like contact lists or e-mail and text messages -- are at risk in a bluesnarfing attack.

Hot spot: A hot spot is another name for a Wi-Fi access point or an area where there is an open wireless network. Typically, a hot spot has free wireless Internet access but it also applies to areas with paid access, such as coffee shops or airports.

MAC Address: A MAC address, short for Media Access Control address, is a unique code assigned to most forms of networking hardware. The address is permanently assigned to the hardware, so limiting a wireless network's access to hardware -- such as wireless cards -- is a security feature employed by closed wireless networks. But an experienced hacker -- armed with the proper tools -- can still figure out an authorized MAC address, masquerade as a legitimate address and access a closed network.

SSID: SSID is an acronym for Service Set Identifier. The SSID is a sequence of up to 32 letters or numbers that is the ID, or name, of a wireless local area network. The SSID is set by a network administrator and for open wireless networks, the SSID is broadcast to all wireless devices within range of the network access point. A closed wireless network does not broadcast the SSID, requiring users to know the SSID to access the network. Most wireless base stations come with a default SSID that is easily found on the Internet and security experts recommend changing the default SSID to protect your network.

Stumbler: A software program that looks for wireless networks and determines whether the network is open or closed. A well-known example is NetStumbler.

Wardriving: Wardriving is the term for finding and marking the locations and status of wireless networks. Wardrivers typically use software to determine whether the network is open or closed and a Global Position System device to record the location. A wardriver marks the spot either by using a symbol written in chalk on a building near the spot -- known as warchalking -- or mapping the locations and posting it on the Internet.

Warchalking: Warchalking is the name given to the practice of drawing symbols in public places to alert others to the location of a Wi-Fi wireless network. The symbols, typically drawn in chalk on a building, indicate whether the network is open, closed or whether it uses encryption.

WEP: WEP is short for Wired Equivalency Privacy and it is a security protocol for Wi-Fi networks. Many base stations have WEP turned off by default but users can change that setting. WEP, however, has known flaws that skilled hackers can exploit.

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is short for "Wireless Fidelity" and is a set of standards for wireless local area networks based on the specifications known as 802.11. It was originally developed for use by wireless devices and local networks but it is now used for Internet access as well. If you access the Internet wirelessly from your computer or personal digital assistant, chances are you are using a flavor of Wi-Fi.

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