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Beware the rogue access points

Wireless security headaches

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Wireless LANs will continue to be a major security headache for businesses over the next few years, despite the introduction of improved security standards. Inadequate policies and poor installation, rather than inherent security weaknesses, are the main problem.

The misconfiguration of WLAN access points and client software will account for 70 per cent of successful WLAN attacks in the next two years, according to Gartner. Updated security policies that address the particular demands of the mobile workplace must drive security for WLANs and personal digital assistants (PDAs), the analyst firm advises..

"Whether hackers are able to enter a company's WLAN through an unprotected AP (access point) or through a peer workstation, once they are associated with the network, they will be difficult to detect because they may not be visible in or near the network site," said John Pescatore, Gartner veep. "A clever hacker will play it safe and use the company's resources quietly, and as a result, may never be found."

Businesses must ensure there are no unauthorized (rogue) wireless access points on their network and that APs are configured securely. In dense environments, companies must ensure that their users don't connect to the networks of other companies or vice versa. The least expensive - and least effective - way of doing this is to buy a wireless sniffer handheld and walk the perimeter of the network. The most expensive - and most secure - is to install wireless intrusion detection sensors, according to Gartner. ®

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