Mesh Networking and Protecting Your Network

There is something that should scare the bejesus out of those who protect networks: mesh networking.

The general rule of thumb is that any device with two network interfaces is a router.

And guess what? Every phone in everyone's pocket is a router. Virtually all phones have cellular, bluetooth, and WiFi radios. Generally your phones aren't acting like routers, but with wearables on their way, they soon will be. And you can always explicitly turn your phone into a router by turning on the WiFi hotspot feature. Boom! You are a full-blown router.

Now there is a new element to worry about: mesh networks.

Wireless mesh networks have been around forever, but something has changed to turn mesh networking from an interesting concept to a potential game changer: it is now built into every iOS device!

This gives mesh networking the density of devices needed to be useful. (Android devices may soon have it too.) FireChat is one of the first apps to take advantage this feature. I expect to see a lot more apps using this iOS capability. (see Mike Elgan's article for more.)

But here is the kicker for security. This creates a network into your into your organization's premises that completely bypasses the network controlled by the site's network/security administrators. Bypass a firewall or DLP device. Hop an air gap. With a store-and-forward capability, even tunnel through Faraday cages.

I'm waiting to see a command & control networks running over mesh networks. There have already been botnets that use peer-to-peer networking, which makes shutting them down very difficult. But these P2P botnets still use traditional networks and routers to move data around, and this at least gives you a fighting chance. Mesh networking will mean the C&C will literally travel from pocket to pocket of employees, visitors, and random people walking by.

Maybe mesh networking will just be a fad, making a high profile splash that quickly fades like the infamous Color app (which, may be where Apple's technology came from).

But mesh networking is something all cyber security folks should keep an eye on.