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Wireless Security Guidelines

April 5th, 2006

Wireless PCs, laptops and devices are being increasingly used in both business and the home. The reason for this marked trend is that wireless computers are easy to deploy, cheap and are usually simpler to manage than standard wired connections. Using wireless, new PCs or laptops can be added without the difficulty and cost of wiring them in.

For enterprises, wireless provides laptop users with convenience and mobility. Corporate workers find it very tempting to be able to move around the office or between company offices and connect into the network via a wireless laptop, wherever they happen to be. It can increase productivity and is very convenient. It is, however, often done by an individual without the knowledge of IT or management – sometimes called ´rogue access´.

While ordinarily standards bring security and structure to business and business processes, wireless computing is awash with standards and still manages to be regarded as a major security risk. A wide range of wireless standards are either finalised, in the process of being finalised, or under discussion by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

For the enterprise, 802.1x has a number of security benefits. These include support for centralised security management, dynamic encryption keys (when used with an authentication server which is a big step forward) and support for strong upper layer authentication.

WPA as an interim adopted a subset of the 802.11i draft (while waiting for ratification) to address the fundamental weakness of WEP and it uses TKIP. WPA2 is the second generation of WPA security; providing enterprise and consumer Wi-Fi® users with a high level of assurance that only authorised users can access their wireless networks. WPA2 is based on the final IEEE 802.11i amendment to the 802.11 standard and is eligible for FIPS 140-2 compliance.

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