T-Mobile boosts public WLAN security

    Date06 Oct 2004
    7144
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    T-Mobile has begun using 802.1x security to authenticate users logging on to its US pubic Wi-Fi hotspots in a bid to make it harder for hackers to obtain legitimate users' names and passwords. . . . T-Mobile has begun using 802.1x security to authenticate users logging on to its US pubic Wi-Fi hotspots in a bid to make it harder for hackers to obtain legitimate users' names and passwords.

    The move replaces the company's traditional web-based login system with an updated version of its own utility, Connection Manager, or software built into Windows XP and Mac OS X.Not only is the initial login more secure, but users' connections will now be encrypted.

    Traditional, web-based gateways control between the open WLAN and the Internet. This method was favoured because it didn't require the user to walk through a complex set-up process at each hotspot in order to ensure a secure connection. Even then, 802.11's Wired Equivalent Protection (WEP) security system is not the most robust of security standards.

    T-Mobile's approach allows the company to use the newer, much more secure Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security scheme to encrypt traffic flowing across the WLAN.

    Essentially, the 802.1x client code negotiates access through a dedicated encrypted link to T-Mobile's authentication server. If the user enters the correct username and password, the server tells the local access point to issue a WPA key to the client and from then on data is encrypted and access to the Internet granted - all in a highly secure form.

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