Wireless IDS/IPS thwarts mall intruders

Siemens yesterday announced the addition of IDS/IPS and location services to its HiPath wireless line, which the largest shopping mall in the world will use to secure its WLAN.

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It wouldn't do justice to say that the IT staff at West Edmonton Mall have their hands full.

The mall, all 5 million square feet of it, is a mix of public and corporate networks converging over the same infrastructure. Throw wireless into the mix, and things can get a bit more complicated.

"We get to really experience an entire industry of wireless in one location," said Bill Jones, a networking consultant contracted by the mall, which is located in Alberta, Canada.

West Edmonton Mall is a behemoth. It spans the equivalent of 48 city blocks and is Alberta's No. 1 tourist attraction. There are more than 800 stores, upward of 100 dining establishments, a hotel, and eight attractions that include an amusement park, a water park, and a miniature golf course. On the corporate side, there are 1,300 end users.

With customers, guests and employees logging on to the same wireless infrastructure, Joseph Schuldhaus, vice president of IT at West Edmonton Mall, wants to know exactly what's going on. He wants to control the airwaves and have a solid view of how they're being used and who is using them.

In the near future, Schuldhaus and his staff plan to roll out Boca Raton, Fla.-based Siemens Communications Inc.'s latest addition to its line of wireless LAN products: HiPath Wireless Manager Advanced (HWMA), a modular extension for the Siemens HiPath Wireless family.

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"It's something we're going to be introducing," he said.

Announced yesterday, HWMA is a WLAN management platform that houses a built-in intrusion detection system (IDS) and intrusion prevention system (IPS) that protect both the radio space and the packets traversing the network. HWMA also features user location services to help find exactly where a device is located while on the WLAN. Tools for site planning and performance optimization are included as well.

The HWMA addition is the third phase of Siemens' wireless push, which also includes three types of access points and various wireless controllers. HWMA takes wireless networking one step further by being able to map radio frequency coverage, troubleshoot remotely, and detect and protect against wireless intrusions, said Luc Roy, Siemens' vice president of product planning. It also provides authentication and encryption at the packet level.

HWMA has a user dashboard that gives real-time overviews of the wireless network, with charts, reports and statistics that detail usage, Roy said, adding that HWMA is targeted at two distinct enterprise segments: those who need to protect confidentiality and those who need to protect revenue opportunities.

Schuldhaus said that West Edmonton Mall falls into both categories. The mall already uses Siemens' wireless controllers and looks forward to adding more security with HWMA.

"We're very sensitive about our security," he said, noting that the mall is looking to set up multiple VLANs, subnets and SSID under one infrastructure.

In a building that takes up such a huge area, Schuldhaus said, one of HWMA's selling points is the location services, which allow managers to track where a device is getting onto the WLAN. This can be used to boost emergency response time and pinpoint the location of someone who may be trying to access the network with ill will.

With a wireless network that is used by both customers and corporate users, the wireless space cannot go unprotected, Schuldhaus said. His staff doesn't want just anyone with a laptop to be able to log on. The mall would like to allow shoppers to log on but prevent loiterers in the parking lot from taking advantage. Increased IDS/IPS with location services can help the staff find points of access and knock them off if necessary.

"You really have to treat your wireless space as a hostile space," he said. "We want to take comfort in what's happening in our wireless space."

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