Wi-Fi Protected Setup’s First Software Support

Because they “have to be there first” — as in providing software to run in future WLAN products— Devicescape Software of San Bruno, California today announced the latest version of its software for Wi-Fi device manufacturers, Devicescape Agent.

Of particular note in this version: it’s the first announced software to support the Wi-Fi Protected Setup security standard soon to come from the Wi-Fi Alliance.

“It has to get into products when the standard is announced in the near term,” says Glenn Flinchbaugh, vice president of marketing at Devicescape. Thus his company needs to roll out the support now, so vendors can release products with the features later this year.

“Our aim is to make it much, much easier to get a Wi-Fi device on the network,” says Flinchbaugh. “It’s too hard right now. Users are struggling.”

Agent is new name for what used to be called Devicescape Secure Wireless Client (SWC), which the company used to help push support for Wi-Fi Protected Access 2.0 (WPA2), the Alliance’s advanced version of the 802.11i security standard. Wi-Fi Protected Setup will be a consumer-friendly method of implementing WPA2. Devicescape is calling its support “Easy Access.”

“We’ve been working with all the key players — Intel, Microsoft, Atheros, Buffalo Technology, Broadcom, Sony, etc. — on defining the [Wi-Fi Protected Setup] specification, working on issues and interoperability,” says Flinchbaugh. “It’s supposed to be simple. The tech is itself complicated: it’s an inch-thick spec. If you weren’t involved in writing it and in all the testing, you’re not going to build it right the first time. Too many things are between the lines, captured in e-mails among the group over the last several months.” He says it will work across chipsets from Atheros, Broadcom and Marvell and that some chipmakers are licensing Agent so they don’t have to build the support themselves.

How specifically Wi-Fi Protected Setup is going to work is under wraps until it’s “fully cooked” to the Wi-Fi Alliance’s satisfaction. Its likely to include a mix of support for single push-button hardware setups (like that found on the AOSS products from Buffalo Technology) and a software-based setup, either with a software-based button or a more secure four-character to eight-character PIN code.

Flinchbaugh says no matter the type of setup, once started on a router, you start the same process on a client and they’ll connect in under two minutes with a “handshake over the air. At the end, they have a WPA2 encrypted session in place. It’s there forever, even when you turn the device on and off, as long as you don’t wipe the memory” with a hard reset. “You don’t have to know SSIDs or keys or a passphrase.”

Agent will also add support for new chips and platforms, specifically Windows Mobile 5.0. “We had a lot of demand from customers building smartphones, converged phones,” says Flinchbaugh. “They don’t get enough from Microsoft, but they want full WPA and Cisco compatibility.” Agent will continue to support Cisco Compatible Extensions, software currently in version 4 that allows clients to work on any Cisco-based WLAN infrastructure.

Other OSes supported by Agent include Windows, Windows CE and Linux. Vendors looking to run it on their systems can get it in source code format.

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