Wi-Fi Direct: Boon Or Security Risk?

A form of peer-to-peer wireless networking, Wi-Fi Direct devices can establish wireless connectivity with each other without requiring a wireless router, hot spot or access point. The access itself is provided through on board software -- or a "soft AP" -- through which the device can control network traffic much like a regular access point would. Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) is included in certified Wi-Fi Direct devices, according to the Alliance, to ensure security, although skeptics challenge that if so many individual devices have soft APs, network security risks heighten.

Aficionados liken Wi-Fi Direct to Bluetooth connectivity, but with a stronger connection and wider range. According to an FAQ posted by the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi Direct devices offer speeds of up to 250 Mbps, and cover a range of up to 200 meters.

"We designed Wi-Fi Direct to unleash a wide variety of applications which require device connections, but do not need the Internet or even a traditional network," said Wi-Fi Alliance CEO Edgar Figueroa in a statement. "Wi-Fi Direct empowers users to connect devices -- when, where and how they want to, and our certification program delivers products that work well together, regardless of the brand."

The Wi-Fi Alliance has designated five Wi-Fi cards as the first to be Certified Wi-Fi Direct: the Atheros XSPAN Dual-band 802.11n PCIe Mini Card, Broadcom's BCM43224 Dual-band 802.11n 2x2 MIMO PCIe Half Mini Card, Intel's Centrino Advanced-N 6200, Ralink's MIMObility 802.11n 2x2 PCIe Half Mini Card and Realtek's RTL8192CE-VA4 HM92C00 PCIee mini card. Those products, along with Cisco's 2106 Wireless LAN controller and Aironet 1240 Series access point, comprise the Wi-Fi Direct test suite.

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