Meru Steps Up Fight Against Rogue Access Points With New Security Module

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The Meru Security Services Module, slated to ship next quarter, installs on the Meru WLAN controller and incorporates the vendor's proprietary AirShield technology. Using a variety of packet inspection, channel scanning and signal jamming techniques, the technology protects wireless networks against intruders without adding traffic to the WLAN, said Joel Vincent, director of marketing at Meru, Sunnyvale, Calif.

The core feature is microscanning, which enables access points to look at each packet and make decisions based on the information it contains. This approach allows the access points in a WLAN to identify threats such as rogue access points while simultaneously handling network traffic, which is necessary for deploying an infrastructure that can handle both voice and data, he said.

"Once a rogue is identified, instead of sending out a de-authentication packet, Meru's software will put a spike of noise into every transmission the rogue puts out, which will cause the clients in the WLAN to ignore it," Vincent said. "By using this mitigation technique, once we identify the rogue, we prevent it from transmitting packets, so it never gets in and never adds overhead traffic to the network."

Monte Seifers, technology director at Converged Solutions Group, Nashville, Tenn., says the microscanning approach is effective against so-called "agile" rogues, an emerging type of threat in which access points are configured to change their MAC address to avoid detection.

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Unlike most WLAN infrastructure, Meru's system is designed to eliminate interference by allowing the access points to broadcast the same SSID on the same channel, enabling them to take control of the airspace in the same way as towers in cellular networks, Seifers said. "This means all the access points in a Meru network are like one big 'amoeba' access point, so clients see no handoffs from [access point to access point], which is crucial for [voice-over-WLAN]," he said.

Pricing for the Meru Security Services Module begins at $2,500 for 50 access points.