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Exploring WLAN Security With Senforce's Allan Thompson

The rapid proliferation of wireless LANs in corporate America is having a dramatic impact on how enterprise networks are designed, deployed and maintained. With the rise in WLAN deployment, there has been a commensurate level of interest in how to secure these critical network elements. The Networking Pipeline had an opportunity to review some of these issues with Allan Thompson, President and CEO of Senforce Technologies, Inc.

Networking Pipeline: How seriously are enterprise users taking WLAN security?

Thompson: Most users want to be good corporate citizens, and don't set out at the start of the work day to compromise security or put corporate data and assets at risk. The challenge is that out-of-the-box WLAN technology presents the user with the opportunity to be more productive (with increased connectivity options), but potentially exposes corporate data and assets to a variety of security threats both old and new. The smart enterprise realizes that, for productivity and convenience reasons alone, WLAN technology is inevitable in the enterprise. Users will introduce the technology if the IT function doesn't. It is the combination of the impatient enterprise user and the unresponsive IT function that really introduce WLAN security risks into the enterprise. It doesn't need to be that way, but it generally is the case.

Networking Pipeline: Is there a significant difference in security levels between corporate WLANs and public WiFi deployments (like T-Mobile's hotspot)?

Thompson: For the corporate WLAN, the question is best answered by considering where the WLAN infrastructure is placed in relation to the overall enterprise. If the wireless connections are to occur behind the enterprise perimeter, then there are absolutely differences in the security required in a corporate WLAN versus a public hotspot WLAN's security configuration. WLAN access points behind the firewall MUST utilize encryption technology beyond Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), which has multiple and readily available published exploits that introduce multiple threats, including vulnerabilities from WLAN "sniffing" and Windows network share vulnerabilities to name a few. Available non-proprietary corporate solutions include use of Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or IEEE 802.11i security protocols in access points to prevent both unauthorized connections to WLAN infrastructure and unauthorized sniffing of WLAN traffic.

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