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Rogue WLANS – the next security battlefield?

Gartner thinks so

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Indadequate security measures will leave 30 per cent of enterprise exposed to security risks from wireless LANS by the end of next year.

That's the conclusion of a Gartner study of wireless networking security. The analyst firm advises users to formulate a security policy for WLAN deployment now, even if they have no immediate plans to use the technology.

Gartner estimates at least 20 per cent of organisations already have "rogue" WLANs attached to their corporate networks, installed by users looking for the convenience of wireless and unwilling to wait for the sysadmins to take the lead.

Hackers can easily break the over-the-air security built into today's 802.11b WLANs - according to Gartner, this is primary risk associated with WLANs.

Few WLAN installations operate with even a minimal level of protection, the analyst firm claims.

"Wireless LANs are broadcasting secrets of enterprises that have spent millions on Internet security," said John Pescatore, a research director at Gartner. "Because WLANs are on every executive's wish list, CIOs (chief information officers) should make sure they have security measures in place now. Fixing the exposure after a hacking attack cannot recapture lost intellectual property and sensitive customer information."

Gartner recommendations for implementing WLANs securely include:


  • At a minimum, always activate the default level of product security available.
  • Use IPSec (IP Security) virtual private networks on all WLAN connections, until next-generation security standards are defined, tested and implemented in WLAN products, which Gartner estimates will happen late next year.
  • Take measures to detect unauthorized WLAN installations, which may be opening up huge security holes.
  • Define and distribute security policies on WLAN and educate employees on the risks of wireless networking.

Wireless networking opens up a wave of fresh security risks and users would do well to consider Gartner's sage advice on this. ®

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