Often with older machines, the built-in WiFi adapters have failed. These in turn drive a demand to procure USB WiFi adapters since ethernet connectivity is not a choice.

Since the devices will be plugged into a USB port, what are the security considerations when using USB WiFi adapters?

For example, does it make them more susceptible to physical attacks wherein they may be stolen and used to connect to the WiFi network? If yes, how can these attacks be protected against? Note, the devices that the USB WiFi adapters will be plugged into are not stationary. The users often work remotely or off-site.

The devices will be used for both Microsoft Windows and Linux desktops.

1 Answer 1


The passwords/phrases for a WiFi connection are not stored on the adapter so there is little additional data risk. The dongle by itself is not sufficient to connect to a network. In other words, if you are worried about theft of the dongle leading to network access - it's not a big deal. (Of course, bigger threat of theft of device may be an issue but exists in both cases)

I postulate that the device might be able to be switched out with a specially crafted special one which includes unwanted additional functionality (remotely controllable keyboard?) but that would be beyond the scope of most attackers, and could hide easily in ANY attached USB device.

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