RealTime IT News

WLAN Security Spec Goes Open Source

Wireless LAN (WLAN) chipset maker Atheros Communications has released one of its key security technologies to the open source community.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company submitted code for its JumpStart for Wireless security configuration software to SourceForge.net for use by anyone in the wireless LAN industry. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) has already certified the code for JumpStart for Wireless.

Based on the Diffie-Hellman key exchange protocol, JumpStart lets multiple devices obtain a WPA encryption key long enough and complex enough that it is difficult to get around without that key being re-entered on each machine.

If the user decides on a short, not very complicated, but perfectly legal password -- like "spaghetti" -- JumpStart uses the secure key exchange to compensate.

This is not the first time Atheros has contributed to open source coffers. The company already has a few projects available through the independent madwifi project.

In this case, Atheros made JumpStart compatible with chipsets from other companies such as Intel's Centrino, Marvell and Broadcom .

"Customers have expressed concern about getting locked into proprietary security systems that limit hardware choices," Atheros president and CEO Craig Barratt said in a statement.

"JumpStart's ability to work with virtually any silicon solution avoids this problem as well as the fragmentation that would occur if every silicon vendor introduces a different configuration system," Barratt said. "We fully support the Wi-Fi Alliance's work toward developing an industry-standard security setup system."

In addition to the code, Atheros is offering its JumpStart Developer's Kit. The package includes a set of software components for WLAN clients and access points, as well as APIs for working with client-based applications.

The wireless security spec also supports profile management tools such as Microsoft Wireless Zero Configuration, Atheros said.

Already, Atheros' open source choice has gotten a thumbs-up from WLAN equipment vendors such as D-Link and Corega, a major Japan-based access-point supplier.

The company said its JumpStart technology also works with a broad range of platforms including laptop PCs, cell phones, cameras, printers and MP3 players. Atheros products are found in devices from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NEC, Sony and Toshiba.

Atheros said it is ready to see how the open source community adds to the JumpStart code, but reminded people that it would continue to reserve its trademark rights with anyone that applies and passes its interoperability testing.