Report: Many Companies Lax on Wi-Fi Security

In a rush to improve productivity, many enterprises have overlooked the need to secure the flow of data over their wireless local area networks, according to new research from Jupitermedia’s research arm.

The study, released here today at 802.11 Planet & Expo, finds that only 28 percent of enterprises are using point-to-point virtual private networks. Meanwhile, the next Wi-Fi standard, which includes security measures, is yet unratified.

“Many enterprises rely purely on ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions with basics such as (Wired Equivalent Privacy) with either manual or automated rotation of keys, restricted service set identifier access or MAC-based device authentication,” said Julie Ask, a Jupiter Research senior analyst.

In general, larger enterprises take WLAN security more seriously than their smaller counterparts, Ask said. But as the number of people with Wi-Fi PC cards continues to grow so do the potential threats of someone breaching corporate networks.

The findings could represent an opportunity for equipment vendors and service providers. Several are addressing the issue, including Nortel which recently introduced a WLAN portfolio that includes a number of security features. Service providers are also adding wireless security installations and integration as part of their offerings.

Jawad Khaki, Microsoft’s vice president of Windows networking and communications, said one of the company’s recent user surveys indetified security as the top concern in adopting Wi-Fi.

“Connected all the time means all the time under attack,” Khaki said in his keynote address. “Security is important. . . and it’s still evolving.”

Khaki stressed the importance of wireless industry hardware and software makers to adopt standards, saying the goal should be to have wireless access be like plugging a phone into a walljack — simple, reliable and secure. A uniform structure will allow developers to build advanced media applications, which will spur growth.

“Proprietary protocols are adding to the confusion,” Khaki said.

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