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Microsoft Tests New Wi-Fi Security, Locator Tools

Some Office 2007 beta testers have been offered a chance to try out a new Microsoft service that helps users find and manage wireless connections at public and private hotspots.

According to the blog, Microsoft has invited a small number of Office 2007 Beta 2 testers to try out Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi Beta, yet another addition to the burgeoning list of the services Microsoft dubs "Windows Live."

The new software-slash-service can automatically sniff out in-range hotspots and then link the computer to the Wi-Fi connection, as well as locate available access points using a Web site. The service also integrates with Windows Live Local to map the location of any hotspot and provide driving directions to it.

In addition, the beta provides built-in security via a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt communications between notebook and wireless access point. Public hotspots don't enable security -- to do so would lock out users -- making Wi-Fi at locales such as airports and coffee shops risky. The integrated VPN would block attackers and identity thieves from capturing in-the-clear wireless traffic that might include credit account information or enterprise network log-in credentials.

Office 2007, currently in Beta 2, is now scheduled to ship to most customers in what Microsoft's pegged as "early" 2007. The beta of Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi is scheduled to run through that same time frame.

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