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.

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