iPass Pushes 802.1X

This week at the CommunicAsia 2004 show in Singapore, iPass of Redwood Shores, Calif., will be demonstrating the authentication ability of its iPassConnect client software, both with 802.1X/RADIUS-based systems and at hotspots that use the company’s own Generic Interface Specification (GIS) and browser based authentication.

The point is to show the co-existence of both authentication methods in the same software, giving iPass customers an idea of the security abilities the company can offer. Said coexistence makes it easy for iPass users to migrate from using hotspots with GIS (the specification has to be built into the hotspot hardware) to more advanced authentication on a corporate WLAN using 802.1X.

“From the user perspective, we’ll connect either way,” says Barbara Nelson, senior director of advanced technology at iPass. “If it’s 802.1X, we’ll connect that way. If it’s GIS, we’ll use GIS. The user doesn’t worry.”

Using 802.1X at a public hotspot effectively blocks out potential intruders at the location when used to connect back to the home network.

The 802.1X support is not new to the client — iPass built it in, licensing a third-party supplicant, over a year ago. Last year, the company announced a program called iPass Wireless LAN Roaming as an extension to its Corporate Access service, so that clients could be used on the road or in the home office as needed, using profiles to get on multiple networks.

802.1X, an industry standard for authentication, is popular in enterprises, but is only slowly gaining traction for use at hotspots. T-Mobile Hotspot, which operates public access Wi-Fi in Starbucks and many other locations — and is a partner with iPass, allowing iPass subscribers to roam on the T-Mobile network — announced its own plans to build in 802.1X late last year.

Nelson says iPass expected to see heavy use of 802.1X by enterprises earlier, but says carriers seem to be moving into this type of authentication using iPassConnect even faster.

“As the providers are offering 802.1X, we want to be able to make it available,” she says. “The sooner they provide 1X, the more up-tick we’re going to see. This [technology] really does work and isn’t difficult.”

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