Networking

Wireless worries

Why is it that security is still such a big worry for IT managers when it comes to deploying wireless networks? You may think that wireless vendors would have ironed out all the security kinks by now. But, that's not really the case. Despite great improvements in authentication and access control mechanisms, wireless networks are still plagued by a multitude of vulnerabilities, new attack patterns from hackers, and critical data leaks that can shake even the hardened security managers.

Industry pundits say that what makes WLANs so hard to secure could be their very nature – riding the airwaves for communications, and the ubiquity of wireless-enabled devices. Unlike your good old wired networks in which communications happen through a shielded copper wire pair or optical cable, RF signal literally traverses through the open air. Whether authorized or not, wireless access points and its users are susceptible to malicious activity.

No doubt, enterprises in the Middle East are doing better on the wireless security front. We see more and more organizations moving to WPA/WPA2. Many IT managers that I talk to seem comfortable with the security of their WPA/WPA2 networks, but they often fail to realize that this is only one piece of a wireless security strategy. A recent Gartner report says companies need to think beyond simply securing WLAN access points when looking at the problems caused by wireless use. IT managers will have to think about ever-proliferating client devices inside a wireless network that pose the biggest security risk. Failure to address client configuration and security issues could leave a gaping gap in your network security. IT departments must be armed with a pre-emptive plan of action to fight malicious attacks and prevent employee misuse.

Now, that brings to me another hotly-debated topic in technology seminars today. With 802.11n waiting in the wings, promising blazing speeds, can wireless ever replace wired networks at the network edge?

With security threats still looming ahead, I think it looks a bit far-fetched at the moment.

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