Unplugged data can also be hack-proof data

By Maggie Biggs, InfoWorld |  Networking

ASIDE FROM the obvious distinction of having no wires, wireless LANs or WLANs have the same physical attributes as traditional networks and require the same security considerations. Indeed, both LANs and WLANs face three potential security hazards each day: risks to physical system elements, interception from outside, and unauthorized access to protected network areas by internal users.

Wireless networking security

BUSINESS CASE


Wireless networks offer increased mobility, decreased wiring requirements, and a physical layer that may actually strengthen overall network security.

TECHNOLOGY CASE


Wireless networks still require typical security measures such as encryption and firewalls. Spread-spectrum technologies and MAC (Media Access Control) available at the physical layer will help reduce the likelihood of attacks.

PROS


+ Increased mobility and collaboration

+ Reduced investments in cabling

+ Easy to learn and implement across multiple platforms

CONS


- Multiple access points required for dispersed networks

- Range reduction may occur in closed office settings

Although many may believe wireless systems are less secure than their wired counterparts (most IT professionals suffer nightmares of vulnerable data flying around the airwaves), WLANs actually provide unique security elements at the physical layer that make them less susceptible than traditional LANs to a variety of security risks.

Unplugging weak points

Administrators of wired networks know all too well how important it is to protect the physical wires of a network, lest an unauthorized individual gain access to sensitive company data. But by implementing one or more WLAN segments in your network, you reduce the number of wires in your systems, thereby providing fewer access points for intruders and also greatly decreasing the risk of physical security violations.

Because typical WLANs often use access points as interconnecting bridges to wired networks, companies with WLANs can more easily isolate individual users on a wireless segment from a majority of the LAN traffic, which minimizes the threat of packet sniffing.

Most IT managers are already aware of the issues surrounding proper user authentication and authorization levels in wired networks. Given today's interconnectedness, administrators must combine network OS parameters with firewall technologies, which often include packet filter or proxy services.

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