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Socket Brings 802.1X to PocketPC

Newark, CA-based Socket Communications today unveiled that its Low Power Wireless LAN Compact Flash card is getting support for 802.1X security. This move will allow users of the company's Compact Flash 802.11b-enabled client card, usually used in PocketPC-based personal digital assistants (PDAs) , to use the authentication of 802.1X. It's the first company to bring 802.1X to Compact Flash based client cards for wireless LANs.

"It's something we've bee working on diligently since the summer months," says Peter Phillips, VP of marketing at Socket. "With the concern in the security space over the ability to crack WEP, providing 802.1X is a great way to help companies implement security on PDAs." The 802.1X support will provide authentication at both the user and server levels.

The Mobile WLAN Tools software from Socket that will provide the 802.1X support (with EAP-TLS and PEAP support) will also work on Windows 98/ME/2000/XP systems using Socket's CF card.

Microsoft's own campuses have all standardized on 802.1X for security, but due to lack of support left many of their own PocketPC users out. Socket worked closely with Microsoft to get the software working with PocketPC, and "[Socket] just happened to be the card of choice selected to work with them," says Phillips.

End-users will be able to set profiles in the software, so they can connect wirelessly at work, or home, or at public access hotspots using different settings.

The Socket Low Power Wireless LAN Compact Flash card has a suggested retail price of $169. Current owners of the card can get the new software with 802.1X support starting in January 2003. The software is only compatible with the Socket Compact Flash card, according to Phillips it won't work with CF cards from other manufacturers.

What's the future for PDA's getting on wireless LANs beyond the Compact Flash interface? Phillip says the smaller Secure Digital Input/Output (SDIO) cards will "obviously be the next frontier." Socket's chief technology officer is on the committee that took SD from a memory slot into an IO slot, and Socket has already announced a Bluetooth product on the postage-stamp sized SD card. SyChip is already testing an SDIO 802.11b card, but no word on if that solution will incorporate 802.1X authentication.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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