Analyze This—The Easy Way

By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2002-08-26

Setting up a WLAN at home can be as easy as powering up an 802.11x access point and plugging it into an Internet router. Most home users probably dont worry about security unless they have a tenacious, nosy neighbor.

But WLAN implementations can challenge IT managers.

The Yellowjacket, a simple handheld wireless analyzer from Berkeley Varitronics that shipped in June, is a good pick for sites that need an inexpensive tool to design, trouble-shoot and secure 802.11b WLANs. The $3,200 Yellowjacket is a wireless receiver module packaged with Compaqs iPaq Pocket PC for analyzing 2.4GHz WLANs. The unit I tested comes with the iPaq 3765; the receiver works with all 3700, 3800 and 3900 models.

The Yellowjacket receiver can measure all 14 Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum channels used in 802.11b wireless networks and provides useful information, including access points Service Set Identifier, Packet Error Rate and signal strengths. (Fluke Networks is also planning to release a WLAN analyzer coupled with an iPaq.)

In tests, I found that the Yellowjacket, running the bundled Data Logger and Birds Eye software, made it easy for me to look for vulnerabilities and thus helped protect my test WLAN from compromise. The receiver uses four AA rechargeable batteries, which makes the unit bulky and heavy; it would be nicer if a single, smaller lithium battery were used instead.

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