WLAN Security Spec Goes Open Source

Wireless LAN (WLAN) chipset maker Atheros Communications has released one of its key security technologies to the open source community.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company submitted code for its
JumpStart for Wireless security configuration software to SourceForge.net for use by anyone in the wireless LAN
industry. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) has already certified the
code for JumpStart for Wireless.

Based on the Diffie-Hellman key exchange protocol, JumpStart lets
multiple devices obtain a WPA encryption key long enough
and complex enough that it is difficult to get around without that key
being re-entered on each machine.

If the user decides on a short, not very complicated, but perfectly
legal password — like “spaghetti” — JumpStart uses the secure key
exchange to compensate.

This is not the first time Atheros has contributed to open source
coffers. The company already has a few projects available through the
independent madwifi project.

In this case, Atheros made JumpStart compatible with chipsets from other companies such as Intel’s Centrino, Marvell and Broadcom .

“Customers have expressed concern about getting locked into
proprietary security systems that limit hardware choices,” Atheros
president and CEO Craig Barratt said in a statement.

“JumpStart’s
ability to work with virtually any silicon solution avoids this problem
as well as the fragmentation that would occur if every silicon vendor
introduces a different configuration system,” Barratt said. “We fully support the Wi-Fi
Alliance’s work toward developing an industry-standard security setup
system.”

In addition to the code, Atheros is offering its JumpStart Developer’s Kit. The package includes a set of software components for WLAN clients and access points, as well as APIs for working with client-based applications.

The wireless security spec also supports profile management tools
such as Microsoft Wireless Zero Configuration, Atheros said.

Already, Atheros’ open source choice has gotten a thumbs-up from WLAN
equipment vendors such as D-Link and Corega, a major Japan-based
access-point supplier.

The company said its JumpStart technology also works with a broad
range of platforms including laptop PCs, cell phones, cameras, printers
and MP3 players. Atheros products are found in devices from
Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NEC, Sony and Toshiba.

Atheros said it is ready to see how the open source community adds to
the JumpStart code, but reminded people that it would continue to reserve
its trademark rights with anyone that applies and passes its
interoperability testing.

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