WLAN Security Still A Stumbling Block

Enterprise WLANs are finally growing at a steady pace, but security issues remain the biggest factor inhibiting even faster growth.

September 24, 2004

2 Min Read
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Employees are increasingly demanding that enterprises deploy wireless LANs (WLAN). While many companies are acceding to their demands, security issues are the main factor inhibiting even faster uptake of the technology. Ironically, though, few companies have actually suffered from WLAN security breaches.

That's what Jupiter Research found in a recent survey. About half the companies responding to the survey said that security was the primary factor preventing growth of WLANs. However, about 84 percent of the companies that have deployed WLANs said they have not suffered a security breach.

The survey also found that WLAN use will grow steadily through 2004 and into 2005. Only six percent of mid-sized and large enterprises offer wireless access for 90 percent or more of their employees, it found. However, about 22 percent of those enterprises said they'd offer access to 90 percent of their employees in 2005.

All this means that WLAN security vendors are sitting happy. A study released by market research firm Frost & Sullivan found that, as corporations increase their use of WLANs, the security market should see rapid growth.

But the WLAN security market is volatile, according to the survey, and, in order to thrive, security vendors must move beyond simple security and start providing more complete network-management solutions.Adding to the volatility is confusion over WLAN security standards, such as 802.11i, also called WPA.

Meanwhile, The Wi-Fi Alliance is moving forward with new, more powerful security standards. It recently announced the first products to be certified for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) security compliance. WPA2 is based on its predecessor, which, in turn, was based on prestandard IEEE 802.11i extension elements. That spec has since been finalized. WPA2 adds the Advanced Encryption Standard, which is considered essential to meet FIPS140-2 government security requirements.

What this all means for enterprises is that WLAN security vendors will be competing fiercely for their dollars, which is good news. But enterprises also need to make sure that they buy technology based on solid standards, such as WPA2.

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