Wireless Network Security Concerns Dominate Wi-Fi Show

At the Wi-Fi Planet Conference & Expo, which opened Monday in San Jose, Calif. and closes Friday, a Cisco executive said that issues keeping enterprises from adopting wireless networks have been largely solved.

In a speech, Steve Nye, the general manager of Cisco's Building Broadband Solutions division, touted Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and the work being done by the IEEE's 802.11i group as solutions that will put enterprise concerns about wireless security to rest.

Later in the day, however, a former Intel executive turned the tables in a speech where he blasted wireless as being too complicated and too difficult to install.

Les Vadazc, who retired from Intel earlier this year after a 25-year run with the chip-making giant, also countered Nye's claims that the current state of wireless security was good enough.

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Wireless networks are far from secure, he said, quoting statistics that note over two-thirds of network administrators worry about adding wireless networks because of concerns that Wi-Fi will open their networks to attacker and rogue users.

Concern over wireless network security, however, didn't slow vendors from releasing new wireless products.

On Thursday NEC America launched a new WLAN solution based on its IP PBX communications platform that allows voice communication over wireless networks. Using a combination of access points, wireless controllers, and systems management software, the new NEC offering integrates with phones, laptops, PDAs, and Tablet PCs to handle up to 14 simultaneous voice conversations over a single access point. NEC's pitching its wireless gear and management software to a variety of industries, including healthcare and hospitality, a company spokesman said.

Bluesocket, meanwhile, shipped its fourth-generation wireless appliance, the WG-5000 Wireless Gateway. The gateway features a pair of 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, an optional 1000 Base-SX Fibre interface, and solid state storage capacity, and according to Bluesocket, can handle hundreds of hotspots and up to a thousand concurrent users on a WLAN in large organizations. Companies which deploy the network aggregator can let workers roam from one wireless subnet to another without requiring them to re-authenticate while still maintaining a secure environment.

Columbitec used the trade show to strut its new Client Application SDK tools that corporate and custom developers can use to integrate their software with a single sign-on client for VPN remote access to WLANs.

Wireless software vendor PCTEL rolled out its Segue SAM (Soft Access Module) software at Wi-Fi Planet. To be bundled with wireless adapters and licensed to 802.11 chipset makers, SAM turns any laptop or desktop PC with a supported WLAN card into a wireless access point without the need for additional routers or hotspot hardware. The company is targeting both home users -- who will be able to set up wireless networks faster and more easily, said PCTEL -- and enterprise users who want the ability to create a wireless access point on the fly for such chores as offsite meetings and ad hoc group discussions.

In wireless news off the floor of Wi-Fi Planet, a research firm tagged Wi-Fi security as next year's hottest topic among security professionals. According to TheInfoGroup, a New York-based research firm that surveyed nearly 200 security pros at companies ranging from Citigroup to AT&T, approximately four in ten of those administrators polled said that they were planning wireless security projects in 2004. That leads all anticipated enterprise security initiatives by a wide margin.

As if to prove the point about security, Cisco -- named by TheInfoPro (TIP) as the leading vendor which enterprise security experts will turn to for help in securing their wireless network -- said Wednesday that three of its wireless access points can be tapped for security keys. A fix is available on the Cisco Web site.

This story courtesy of TechWeb .