New WPA wireless security coming soon

Wednesday, 11 June 2003, 2:38 PM EST

Virtually no one has a kind word to say about Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), the standard for securing data transmissions on Wi-Fi networks. WEP, which relies on cryptography that can be cracked with a half-hour of laptop time, isn't well-defended, but until recently it's all Wi-Fi fans had.

Things are due to change soon as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), the next-gen Wi-Fi security standard, becomes the accepted security approach for Wi-Fi networks. WPA is giving vendors a strong incentive to roll out new Wi-Fi product lines, abandoning the previous generation of wireless networking approaches.

WPA is backed by the Wi-Fi Alliance , a vendor consortium whose membership includes Cisco, Dell, Intel, Intersil, Microsoft, Nokia, Philips, Sony, Symbol Technologies, and Texas Instruments. Offering codebreaker-hostile features like Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP), the stronger WPA makes Wi-Fi-based LANs look a lot less exposed.

Products supporting WPA, a subset of the pending 802.11i standard, have already begun appearing on the market. Dozens of vendors have already received Wi-Fi Alliance certification for WPA-based Wi-Fi access points, internal and external PC cards, wireless print servers, USB and Ethernet client adapters, and application-specific devices. The full 802.11i version, known as WPA2, should be released sometime next year, and will be compatible with the current wave of WPA technology.

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