Secure Your Personal Area Network
This article discusses security for personal area networks (PANs).
This article sheds light on how to secure your Personal Area Network
But, before we discuss how to secure your Personal Area Network, let’s see what a Personal Area Network is and how it works. This article describes the two types of personal area networks, and their advantages and disadvantages. This article also discusses security issues that are associated with Personal Area Networks, and how to mitigate the risks.
What is a Personal Area Network (PAN)?
According to Wikipedia, A Personal Area Network (PAN) is, “a computer Network for interconnecting electronic devices centered on an individual person’s workspace.” Also pointed out is that there is actually a standard created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The standard is IEEE 802.15. Also to be noted that coverage of a Personal Area network is typically around 10 meters (30 feet or so), depending on the environment and the specific transmission standard used.
That 10 meters that extends in all directions around a person is also known as the “bubble”. The bubble is the person’s Personal Operating Space (POS). The most common method of connecting the devices in a Personal Area Network is Bluetooth. The network environment is intended to be low complexity, low cost, lower power, and robust.
Although there are many subtleties within the Personal Area Network technology our main concerns are:
- How do we use it?
- What are the capabilities?
- Are there privacy concerns?
- What are the security concerns?
- What types of technologies do we use?
As seen in the image above a Personal Area Network can consist of many different devices. Some devices may share resources while others simply communicate with one another. Most of these devices will perform some type of task on command. We can think of a Personal Area Network as an office environment, or perhaps simply the immediate area around you as you travel throughout the day, whether walking, riding, or driving.
Why it’s Important to Secure Your Personal Area Network
Just like with all other types of networks protecting our personal and confidential information is important. Another important aspect to consider is our privacy, like, our conversations, actions, and our location. To better understand why and how to secure your Personal Area Network there are two words to focus on: Privacy and Security.
Privacy is the act of protecting personally identifiable and other sensitive information.
Security is the technologies and methods that protect against unauthorized access to data.
What can happen if your Personal Area Network is hacked?
Although Personal Area Networks are usually confined to a small area, once compromised the damage can reach out to other places in your life. For instance, once the network is hacked, criminals can access and steal your personal information, upload malware, and intercept communications. When all things are considered it’s easy to realize that you must secure your Personal Area Network.
Once a single device is compromised within your network a hacker may be able to successfully infiltrate other parts of your personal or home network. They can initiate spoofing attacks and even use your network to attack other networks. Once a Personal Area Network is infiltrated all devices that share a connection may be in jeopardy.
Read more: How to secure a home wireless router
Types of Personal Area Networks (PAN)
There are basically two types of Personal Area Networks:
- Wired Personal Area Network — As implied, this is a network that is connected with a physical medium like a USB cable. The method to secure your Personal Area Network when it is wired is relatively simple. You just make sure no one else is plugged into your devices.
- Wireless Personal Area Network — This type of network use technologies like Bluetooth, ZigBee, and other wide band signals to connect together. To secure your Personal Area Network when using wireless connections requires several considerations.
Examples of Personal Area Networks
Whether a wired or wireless network there are three main groups Personal Area Networks can belong to:
- Personal Proximity or Body Area Network (BAN) — This could be as simple as having wireless headphones and/or a personal monitoring device like a Fitbit or smartwatch connected to your cellphone. More commonly, a Body Area Network refers to a patient wearing medical sensors that can monitor and support biomedical functions, like a pacemaker or insulin injector.
- Home Office Environment — This type of setup is all about productivity. The network is connected with a segregated section of a home network. With the exception of the workstation or laptop, the devices are isolated from the Internet. If there was no Internet connection for the workstation this type of network could be considered an Offline Network.
Personal Area Networks are Used in Many Environments
- Business enterprise and non-profit organizations,
- personal and business vehicles,
- home offices,
- and military installations.
Personal Area Network Security Issues
In order to secure your Personal Area Network (PAN), it is necessary to realize the vulnerabilities and security issues inherent to this type of network. These networks are different than Local Area Networks in the sense that Personal area networks typically operate outside of the Local Area Network environment but are typically connected to it.
This is usually always the case in a home office environment. Because Personal Area Networks are segmented a typical vulnerability scan of the local network may not detect vulnerabilities that exist within the PAN. There may be several devices within a PAN and they represent a security risk that could be used by a cybercriminal (hacker) to infiltrate the PAN and then use lateral strategies to obtain access to the rest of the network.
A PAN can be looked at as a network of Internet of Things (IOT) devices. That’s really what it is. Many IOT devices have inherent security vulnerabilities. Remember, your PAN is only as secure as your most vulnerable connected device. A PAN has its advantages, but, it also creates possible security vulnerabilities.
Read more: 5G and IOT security vulnerabilities
Following is a list of the main vulnerabilities:
- Location Privacy — When a cellphone is part of the Personal Area Network and an attacker eavesdrops on the Bluetooth packets the hardware address of the device can be obtained. This compromises the identity of the user and can be used to track location. A remedy will be discussed in the section that follows – How to Secure Your Personal Area Network.
- Vulnerabilities in Utilized Devices — IOT devices used in the network may have vulnerabilities. Hackers target IOT devices because they are easy targets. Security features and authentication mechanisms are often weak. Also, manufactures fail to provide security updates when a new vulnerability is discovered.
- Bluesnarfing — Using Bluetooth to steal information from a device is called Bluesnarfing. Hackers can steal information using this technique as far away as 300 feet, with the proper equipment. This crime often takes place in public environments like coffee shops and libraries. Hackers can gain access to all the information on your phone and can even make calls that make run up phone bills.dgsg
How to Secure Your Personal Area Network
By following these guidelines you can secure your Personal Area Network. Following are mitigation techniques to counter the main vulnerabilities.
Ensure Location Privacy
A major security problem in a Wireless Personal Area Network is location privacy. Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem. The fix is to make sure that the attacker can not determine the exact identity of the device. Always use the latest Bluetooth version available. Keep your device’s software up-to-date. And, the most important action; only enabled location services when necessary. Use Airplane Mode when the device is not in use. Even while in Airplane Mode ensure Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are turned off or in “non-discovery” mode.
Mitigate IOT Vulnerabilities
It is not possible to secure your Personal Area Network if you don’t address IOT device vulnerabilities. Make sure all devices connected to your PAN are from trusted vendors. The vendors should offer updates as necessary. Also, ensure during the setup process that all default passwords on the devices are changed. Always use complex and unique passwords. Avoid Plug-in-Play features on devices, always configure each device on its own.
Read more: What is a complex and unique password?
When using a Personal Area Network in a home office environment always configure a separate network for the IOT devices, printers, and any other connected devices. This segmentation of networks can prevent a successful attack from becoming a complete security nightmare. Most modern wireless home routers offer this functionality.
Mitigate Bluesnarfing Attacks
Bluesnarfing is not a new type of attack, but it’s no less vicious than other types of attacks. Use the typical preventative Bluetooth tactics to fight Bluesnarfing, remember it’s another type of Bluetooth attack. In addition, never accept pairing requests that you are not expecting. In your phone settings, require user approval for all connection requests.
One note: When pairing a new device for the first time ensure you are in a private area. Don’t pair new devices in a public setting. First time pairing is when initial authentication and approval occurs. These processes are vulnerable to malicious interception and man-in-the-middle-attacks.
Let’s Sum it Up
It’s up to you to secure your Personal Area Network. Some security challenges are due to a lack of user awareness. Always be aware of your surroundings and if you detect abnormal activity, or anything that indicates a possible attack, immediately disconnect all devices from your network. Even on cellphones it is important to maintain up-to-date-anti-virus software.
Always purchase IOT devices from trusted manufacturers. Never use default passwords. In a home office environment always segment your PAN from your household wireless network. Especially in public, do not connect a device for the first time, and do not accept connection requests. Always turn off services you are not using, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, location services, and use Airplane Mode when appropriate.
What are the 10 types of computer networks?
1) LAN (Local Area Network)
2) WAN (Wide Area Network)
3) WLAN(Wireless Local Area Network)
4) MAN(Metropolitan Area Network)
5) CAN (Campus Area Network)
6) BAN (Body Area Network)
7) SAN ( Storage Area Network or System Area Network)
8) POLAN (Passive Optical Local Area Network)
9) EPN (Enterprise Private Network)
10) VPN(Virtual Private Network)
Updated 01/14/2021 by Kirby Allen