Wi-Fi starts leaping security barriers

Tuesday, 18 November 2003, 9:05 AM EST

Six months ago, Al Fitzpatrick sat at his desk in a skyscraper in Atlanta's Buckhead district and wondered what his wireless-enabled neighbors were up to. He had no evidence that anyone was trying to hack into the wireless networks at the Atlanta headquarters of S1 (SONE), a financial-services software company where Fitzpatrick is chief security officer. With $250 million in annual revenues and thousands of institutional customers using S1 software to manipulate highly sensitive financial data, Fitzpatrick had reason to be cautious.

S1 already used so-called virtual private networks (VPNs) - encrypted communications tunnels that carry sensitive data traffic over the company's growing web of wireless networks. So Fitzpatrick knew his wireless data was relatively secure. Still, with "drive-by hacking" and successful break-ins of VPNs becoming more prevalent, Fitzpatrick figured better safe than sorry. "I like to be in control of my network," he says. "It's not knowing what's out there that worries me."

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