Wi-Fi Alliance moots security set-up standard

Laying down the law on WPA Wizards

Cat 5 cable

The Wi-Fi Alliance is considering imposing formal certification of WLAN security set-up schemes in a bid to make it easier for non-technical users to protect their data.

In an interview with The Register, Alliance CEO Frank Hanzlik revealed that the organisation has formed a new test group to explore the possibility of imposing ease-of-use best practices on Wi-Fi product vendors.

The move follows oft-expressed criticism of Wi-Fi that while on one hand users have been told that they need to improve the security of their wireless networks, little has been done to make enabling either the relatively weak Wired Equivalent Protocol (WEP) security system or the more robust Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) easier for non-technical users.

In May, Wi-Fi chipmaker Broadcom introduced SecureEZSetup, which allows users to enable WPA protection in just two or three simple steps, depending on whether the user is installing the WLAN for the first time or adding another client to an existing network.

Unfortunately, Broadcom's system relies on proprietary technology within the company's 54g Wi-Fi chips.

Hanzlik didn't mention Broadcom by name, referring instead to a number of "pretty neat security set-up solutions", but it's clear SecureEZSetup is the kind of approach the WFA would like to see implemented more broadly, particularly as Wi-Fi becomes implemented on more consumer electronics kit.

It's equally clear that the organisation sees ease of use, particularly in the context of security, as too important to be left to proprietary solutions.

While the WFA has thus far limited itself to offering advice and recommendations for ease-of-use best practice, Hanzlik admitted the body is thinking about a "more forward-looking" approach that lays down the law and enforces it rather merely making suggestions.

Hanzlik was adamant that the WFA's task force is considering only whether such a course is feasible and worthwhile. Should it decide to proceed, it will then need to determine what constitutes a 'standard' simple security set-up mechanism.

The WFA's chief was also keen to stress that other areas of product development that the organisation offers advice, such as terminology, will remain guidelines rather than laws. ®

Related stories

Broadcom simplifies Wi-Fi security set-up
Wi-Fi group updates security system
Wi-Fi Alliance cracks down on 'standards-plus' kit
Wi-Fi Alliance acts on dodgy wireless kit

Sponsored: Today’s most dangerous security threats