Wireless security - is protected access enough?

Friday, 6 August 2004, 11:10 AM EST

Most networkers think Wi-Fi is just a brand name, a label placed on Wireless LAN (WLAN) equipment to show that it conforms to one of the IEEE 802.11 standards. This used to be true, but the Wi-Fi Alliance (www.wi-fi.org), the group that tests 802.11 products for interoperability and awards the Wi-Fi mark to those that pass, is slowly becoming less like the IEEE's public relations wing and more like a standards organization in its own right.

Two years ago, Wi-Fi was almost synonymous with 802.11b, the WLAN standard that has since become ubiquitous in offices, homes, and public hotspots alike. The faster 802.11a and 802.11g have broadened Wi-Fi's definition, while at the same time the Alliance has broadened its tests to go beyond the speeds mandated by the IEEE, as well as ensure smooth handoffs when more than one version of 802.11 is used in the same network. But with the publication of its Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) specification, which becomes mandatory in all Wi-Fi hardware this October 2003, the Alliance has come its furthest yet. Its motivation is simple: to fix 802.11's most notorious problem-security.

By Andy Dornan at Network Magazine.

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