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The wacky world of WiFi

James E. Gaskin | Sept. 2, 2009
In honor of the 802.11n WiFi standard getting close to arriving after wandering through the desert for 40 years, let's look at wireless. Our focus today is on helping you WiFi better, even if it means doing less WiFi.

How your clients access and authenticate to your wireless network can make or break your security. Wireless access points that broadcast the SSID (Service Set Identifier) to make them easier to locate also invite outsiders to try and connect to your network. Configure your wireless clients to automatically connect to your network and don't advertise the name.

Be careful of “rogue access points” that appear thanks to clueless employees. These are consumer wireless routers employees buy and plug in themselves without “bothering” the IT folks with the details. Security configuration? None. Security headaches? Many. Check for strange networks that appear when you do a “find networks” scan, and hunt down those employees and confiscate those rogue access points.

Already suspect, WiFi security got another black eye when Japanese researchers advertised they hacked WPA (WiFi Protected Access) encrypted traffic in less than one minute last week. Now the only secure option is WPA 2. All wireless hardware made since March 2006 supports WPA 2, another reason to upgrade your WiFi hardware soon.

Is WiFi handy? Absolutely. Does it make networking possible in places you can't run wires, like historic buildings or big open spaces? Absolutely. But as always, convenience comes at a cost, and that's never more true than when using WiFi.


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