Wireless Security Blackpaper

Wednesday, 21 August 2002, 1:18 AM EST

In 1999 the IEEE completed and approved the standard known as 802.11b, and WLANs were born. Finally, computer networks could achieve connectivity with a useable amount of bandwidth without being networked via a wall socket. Suddenly connecting multiple computers in a house to share an Internet connection or play LAN games no longer required expensive or ugly cabling. Business users could get up out of their chairs and sit in the sunshine while they worked. New generations of handheld devices allowed users access to stored data as they walked down the hall to a meeting. The dawn of networking elegance was upon us. Users could set their laptops down anywhere and instantly be granted access to all networking resources. This was, and is, the vision of wireless networks, and what they are capable of delivering.

Fast forward to today. While wireless networks have seen widespread adoption in the home user markets, widely reported and easily exploited holes in the standard security system have stunted wireless' deployment rate in enterprise environments. While many people don't know exactly what the weaknesses are, most have accepted the prevailing wisdom that wireless networks are inherently insecure and nothing can be done about it. Can wireless networks be deployed securely today? What exactly are the security holes in the current standard, and how do they work? Where is wireless security headed in the future? This article attempts to shed light on these questions and others about wireless networking security in an enterprise environment.

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