Mobile & Wireless: Security was the Watchword in 2004

    Date01 Dec 2004
    Posted ByJoe Shakespeare
    It's no surprise that the issue that topped the Wi-Fi agenda in 2004 was the same one that's plagued it almost from its introduction. Security, or rather "lack thereof," was an inherent problem in WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), the native security spec in the 802.11 IEEE standard.

    2004 was the long-awaited year for good news on that front, however. With the IEEE's adoption of 802.11i, the new Wi-Fi security standard that replaces WEP, security on 802.11-based Wi-Fi networks really does seem to be the equivalent of its wired counterpart.

    802.11i officially replaces porous old WEP with the strong 802.1x authentication that the Wi-Fi Alliance embraced in its interim security mechanism, WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). The new thing it brings to the table is AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). A dramatic leap forward in data encryption on both wired and wireless platforms, AES is the encryption standard that was approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Security Agency three years earlier.

    There are those who argue that 802.11i, with its powerful new encryption and an authentication mechanism that blocks rogues through a mutual authentication handshake, provides greater security than many wired networks. There may be some argument for that if you're running 802.11i within the walls of an enterprise to a given number of users who don't often take laptops on the road. But with 802.11i, the security focus is rapidly shifting to how to secure laptop networks and mobile configurations.
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