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Wireless Security August 13, 2006

Posted by Ted Summers in : Technical , trackback

Like the phones we use today it was only a matter of time before computer networks went wireless. As we shall see as with most network technologies this also has its pros and cons. Wireless networks give their users a lot of freedom. They could setup and use their equipment any where they want to within the range of their wireless signal.

In large companies wireless networks can save lots of cash expenses on wiring labor and equipment cost. The technology is also being used to bridge two networks together as well as providing service to End of Service areas (EOS).

There are currently three major types of wireless networks. They are 802.11B, G, and A. The 802.11 part is the IEEE specification for wireless networks. 802.11B offers user’s network speeds up to 11Mps. 802.11G offers users up to 54Mps. While 802.11A offers users up to 54Mps speed also, however in a different spectrum.

One fact to take note of is that both 802.11B & G networks operate in the 2.4 GHz radio spectrum, while 802.11A operates in the 5 GHz spectrum. This can be an important fact when dealing with the issue of interference from other devices such as cordless phones or microwave ovens.

The major issue when dealing with wireless networks is security. Prior to encryption standards being released, data was being passed in plain text. This allowed anyone with the right equipment to view what may have been sensitive information.

WEP was the first major encryption standard to be release for wireless networks. Its purpose was to encrypt data as it was being sent from point to point. This encryption involves the use of a key to encrypt and decrypt the data. The problem with WEP is that it was found that the WEP key could be easily determined given the correct tools and a little time. The tools necessary to crack a WEP key can be found with just a little searching on the internet using Google on the term WEP.

WPA without getting overly technical is an improved form of encryption. In simple terms, WPA improves encryption by automatically changing the encryption keys (called Rekeying) and is authenticated between devices after a specified period of time. This Rekeying process is what makes WPA superior to WEP and provides stronger protection for the end user.

When dealing with wireless or just security in general its best to take a layered approach. As related to wireless security this means:

Remember nothing is secure; our job is just to make it harder for the bad guys to make us a victim. Hopefully they will just move on to a easier target.

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