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Intel Developer Forum Security issues surrounding wireless networking can be addressed without upgrading hardware, Intel said today.

The future ubiquity of wireless networking has been a key theme of the IDF this week, with much talk of a mobile computing future where laptop computers automatically select the best connection via either a wireless LAN or high-speed mobile network.

This is an attractive vision but there's serious concerns that recently released tools, such as Airsnort, will expose the insecurity of wireless networks, particularly since the security of installed networks has repeatedly been described to us as "flaky".

Encryption experts, among them Adi Shamir, the co-inventor of RSA, have highlighted cryptographic weaknesses in the WEP (Wired Equivalent Protocol) security that ships with 802.11b. Best practice calls for the use of virtual private networking techniques to encrypt data flowing over wireless Lans but this is often not followed.

Carol Jacobson, manager of Intel's wireless initiative, said weaknesses in WEP can be addressed by upgrading the firmware on existing kit and won't entail a forklift upgrade of kit (just better key management technology).

The next generation 802.11i standard for wireless networking will provide a long-term solution, she added.

Another concern raised during a panel on client initiatives at IDF was fears about interference arising from the number of different technologies using the 2.4GHz band. Bluetooth devices, 802.11b wireless networking kit, some US mobile operators and even devices from Radio Shack designed to pipe TV signals through the home use the over-occupied band.

According to Jackson, Bluetooth devices and 802.11b wireless equipment do not interfere with each other in airport environments and the like, where their use is emerging. However she admitted a few devices in the IDF technology showcase had "stepped on each other". Hmmm.®

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