Wireless LAN security worries on horizon

Wednesday, 14 January 2004, 3:10 AM EST

This is supposed to be the year that the wireless industry addresses serious security shortcomings that are holding back enterprise wireless LAN rollouts. But looming implementation issues and vendor disagreement are raising questions about how soon the security dilemma will be resolved.

The 802.11i protocol for wireless encryption is on track to become an IEEE standard by June, but it looks like existing WLAN customers seeking to adopt it will need to swap out hardware instead of just upgrading software. In addition, Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have gone their separate ways on a WLAN authentication technology called Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP), creating a schism that could result in interoperability issues.

The 802.11i protocol for shielding wireless data from over-the-air attacks is intended to replace the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) specification that the Wi-Fi Alliance put forward in late 2002 as an interim replacement for the flawed Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption standard. However promising 802.11i seems, it won't be as simple to adopt as WPA, which required only a software upgrade.

By Ellen Messmer at Computerworld.

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