N+I: Wi-Fi group certifies new security capabilities

Signaling the next step in securing standard wireless LAN access points, the Wi-Fi Alliance on Tuesday unveiled its first certifications of products for compliance with the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) specification.

The products, including components and systems from Atheros Communications Inc., Broadcom Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Intersil Corp. and Symbol Technologies Inc., can interoperate using the WPA specification, the nonprofit organization announced at the Networld+Interop (N+I) trade show in Las Vegas. The alliance also will demonstrate WPA in its booth on the N+I show floor.

WPA was developed by the alliance using a subset of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) 802.11i standard due next year. It improves upon the current standard, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), with different systems for handling keys and for LAN access control. For encryption, WPA has TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol), which constructs keys in a different way than does WEP. For access control, WPA will use the IEEE 802.1x protocol, a recently completed standard for controlling entry to both wired and wireless LANs.

WEP has come under fire for being too easy for electronic eavesdroppers to crack. The danger that poses has held back enterprise adoption of wireless LANs, according to industry analysts.

The vendors will be able to mark the certified products with the alliance's WPA label. The alliance currently certifies products for interoperability using the 11M bps (bit-per-second) IEEE 802.11b standard and the 54M bps 802.11a standard. It announced Tuesday a test program for 802.11g, a standard near completion that will allow a carrying capacity of about 54M bps using the same radio spectrum as 802.11b, providing a relatively low-cost option for higher speed wireless LANs.

The alliance certified the following products for WPA interoperability:

-- Atheros AR5BCB-00025A - AR5001X+ 802.11a/b/g CardBus Reference Design Board

-- Atheros AR5BAP-00025A - AR5001AP 802.11a/b/g Access Point

-- Broadcom 802.11g Access Point Reference Design - BCM94306-GAP

-- Broadcom 802.11g CardBus Reference Design - BCM94306CB

-- Cisco Access Point AIR-AP1230B

-- Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 LAN 3B Mini-PCI Adapter

-- Intersil Prism 2.5 Reference Design PCMCIA Card ISL37300P

-- Intersil Prism Access Point Development Kit ISL36356A

-- Symbol Wireless Networker CompactFlash Wireless LAN Adapter Model LA-4137

Networking component maker Broadcom said it is already working with makers of wireless LAN access points and clients on products that will ship with certified WPA support. Broadcom makes transceivers for 11M bps (bit-per-second) 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11a and dual-band 802.11a/g wireless LAN systems. In its 54M bps transceivers it also includes hardware acceleration for AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), which is not required for WPA but will be part of the 802.11i standard, said Jeff Abramowitz, Broadcom's senior director of marketing for wireless LAN products.

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