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Securing the Black Hat Wi-Fi Network With Aruba's Cloud

LAS VEGAS -- What does it take to deliver and secure the wireless network at the Black Hat security conference?

For the 2010, event, it's a lot less manpower and physical hardware than you might think. Jon Green, product manager at wireless-networking vendor Aruba, explained to InternetNews.com that the company has done things a little differently at this year's event.

In total for Black Hat this year, Aruba deployed 28 access points to deliver connectivity. As opposed to previous conferences, this year the company set up the access points in a mesh approach. By using mesh, Green noted that Aruba was able to set up the entire Black Hat network with only two people in less than three hours.

With a mesh network, instead of each wireless access point requiring a wired connection for backhaul, the access points can backhaul traffic through other wireless access points. So if there are three wireless access points in any given room, only one of them might be wired for backhaul. The other two use mesh to leverage the wired access point.

In terms of securing the network, Aruba is using its own Airwave on demand cloud-based system. In past years, Aruba deployed a physical on-site Airwave instance to provide security services and monitoring.


One of the common attacks that the Black Hat Wi-Fi network is blocking in 2010 is rogue access points that try to advertise themselves with the Black Hat SSID. Green said that the Aruba gear can detect the rogue access points in less than a minute and block them from being a risk to users.

Another common attack this year is coming from the Karma Wi-Fi hacking tool. Green explained that Karma listens for Wi-Fi users who are looking for networks and then delivers those network SSIDs as rogue access points.

"We're shutting down everything except for the Black Hat Wi-Fi, the hotel's network and vendor booths," he said.

But the most significant challenge for Aruba with the Black Hat Wi-Fi network isn't about security, according to Green. It's more about confidence.

"The biggest challenge is getting people to think that the network is safe," Green said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.