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Cisco has announced what it says is the first implementation of a draft security standard for wireless networking.

The networking giant collaborated with Microsoft to develop, deliver and deploy the first enterprise authentication and security architecture based on the draft IEEE 802.1x and Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) standard.

EAP is designed to allow wireless client adapter manufacturers and RADIUS server vendors to independently develop interoperable client side and server side security software.

The idea for the IEEE 802.1x standard, which deals with port-based network access control, is to allow enterprises to scale the deployment of wireless networks while still having centralised security management. It provides functions such as centralised user identification, authentication, dynamic key management and accounting.

IEEE 802.1x is positioned as providing simplified administration compared to systems which use static Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) key management.

Microsoft is Cisco's largest wireless LAN enterprise customer and the networking firm sees it collaboration with them as a proving ground for securing enterprise wireless networks.

It's well known that wireless security is pretty flaky and concerns about WEP were highlighted in research by University of California at Berkeley and security vendor Zero Knowledge Systems, which showed ways in which wireless LAN traffic could be intercepted.

Work on beefing up the security of wireless is welcome but we'd be more confident if a large bank, which would have an instinctive understanding of security, was used as a proving ground for wireless security rather than Microsoft, notwithstanding its up close and personal experience of hacking last year.

Support for the standard will now be included in Cisco's Aironet 350 Series of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b) compliant wireless local area networking (WLAN) products, which are currently shipping. ®

External links

Security of the WEP algorithm
Cisco and Microsoft team on wireless security (press release)

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