Q

Are wireless security concerns valid?

Graham, In your opinion, are security concerns valid? And, what's your opinion of Karlnet's wireless system and

security. What do you think of Point to point vs. open systems? The fundamental problem with wireless LANs is that they are designed by humans and humans are inherently flawed. The concerns that many people have raised in the past referring to the use of SSIDs for security, problems with WEP, etc are definitely valid but are definitely not 'deal-breakers' with respect to implementing wireless LANs.

Most of the press that you would have been exposed to originates from media organizations that thrive on fear-mongering and sensationalism and as such I believe that the current security concerns of many people have been blow out of proportion. Take for example a home user installs standard 40bit WEP on their home network and uses it for some web browsing and email. Even if they keep broadcast on and someone 'netstumbles' the WLAN, the unauthorized client would take quite a few days to gather enough data to decipher the WEP key (given the small amount of data crossing the WLAN). Once done the user will have free Internet access but most likely not much more.

The above process would take quite a bit of time and 99.9% of people wouldn't even consider wasting the time – obviously someone that's holding a grudge or attacking a corporate environment may be willing to spend the time, but the average hacker/'netstumbler' isn't going to bother.

If you want to read more about my view on the future of wireless then check out:
http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/infoCenter/askTheExpertsAnswer/0,294272,sid7_gci913115_tax293427,00.html

Karlnet's security (WEP/WEP+, 802.1X, RADIUS and ACLs) can be found in any enterprise grade equipment with vendors such as Cisco Systems already supporting the WPA Certification in their latest version of access point firmware. The WPA certification provides for and requires the implementation of WEP, TKIP and MIC along with at least one type of 802.1X / EAP user authentication.

These security features are definitely a step forward and what I would classify as mandatory for any corporate environment (in particular security solutions like EAP-TLS and PEAP).

In response to your query regarding point-point vs. open systems, I'm not entirely sure what you're referring to. Some Vendors refer to 'open' systems as those broadcasting their SSIDs in the beacon packets whilst 'closed' systems are systems that have SSID broadcast disabled. A point-point system is commonly referred to as a wireless bridge where this is a parent node and a child node configured to act like a network backbone link. Again I'm not sure how to compare 'open' systems with 'point-point' systems but if you would like to clarify your question I'll put away my crystal ball and stop trying to guess what you mean.

This was first published in July 2003

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