RealTime IT News

Mesh Meets Security

While the promise of a mesh network -- being self-configuring and self-healing and all the self-sufficiency that goes with that -- is great, they don't lead themselves to a secure connection beyond the mesh. That is from the client to the access points the users connect to.

FireTide, a Hawaii-based company that makes mesh-infrastructure products that work with third party Wi-Fi access points, this week is formalizing a partnership with Cranite Systems of San Jose, Calif., a company that makes security solutions for networks.

"We've got good security on the mesh, but nothing outside except for VPNs, which work through the mesh," says Ike Nassi, chairman, CTO, and co-founder of FireTide.

"On the technology side, the solutions are incredibly complimentary," says Andy Maisel, executive vice president of corporate and business development at Cranite. "We come in [with FireTide] and make sure the air-link is secure."

Cranite makes WirelessWall, a software security solution for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) on up to enterprises, which is comprised of a policy server, access controller for each subnet of the network, and client software for each PC. WirelessWall carries a FIPS 140-2 rating. FIPS is short for Federal Information Processing Standards; the 140 cryptographic standard was created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The standard has four levels of security - Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4 -- that increase in quality as they go up. FIPS 140-1, the first level, only supports DES and 3DES encryption. The various levels are suitable for a wide array of areas in which cryptographic modules could be used.

Nassi says the FireTide and Cranite go back some time, and various staffers have worked together over the years. He says the first test his company did with Cranite had their staff all exclaiming the name of a previous customer that would have been much easier to deploy with had they had a mesh solution at the time. Compatiblity testing between the two was also simple and lead to a working relationship they're formalizing now.

The first customer to use the joint solution will be a naval port, but they couldn't give details outside of saying they'll use the Wi-Fi for ship-to-shore communications from the modern day equivalent of PT boats. A mesh network would be set up around the port while laptops on the ships would be able to get wireless network access.

The two companies expect to see sell through of the services to municipalities, especially for use by first responders such as police or ambulances, that would need the flexibility of the mesh but also the government-level security and encryption. Offices for Homeland Security are another.

The deal is not exclusive to each other, but Maisel says they'll be suggesting each others solutions to customers, and may even do customer visits together.

In December 2003, FireTide started its HotFusion Partner Program for system integrators.