New Software Protects Wi-Fi Hardware

Third-party software vendors are coming up with new ways to lock down the Wi-Fi hardware made by bigger companies.

While Wi-Fi hardware makers now consider security features par for the course in their products, third-party wireless security companies are still coming up with new ways to secure the hardware of their bigger brethren.

AirDefense Inc. this week will launch Version 7.0 of AirDefense Enterprise, the Alpharetta, Ga., companys signature wireless security and management software. Version 7.0 can keep track of and secure up to 300,000 wireless devices and 10,000 dedicated RF (radio frequency) sensors, officials said.

The software includes several new analysis tools, including one called RF Rewind that lets IT managers extract network traffic and location information for troubleshooting or compliance reporting. It also can detect rogue access points without the presence of dedicated sensors, although company officials said they still recommend sensors for large organizations that require advanced location capabilities.

One of the first companies to focus solely on Wi-Fi security, AirDefense faces competition mostly from hardware companies that offer their own security software rather than other software companies, officials said. "The vast majority of time we run into the infrastructure guys," said Anil Khatod, president and CEO of AirDefense.

To that end, Newbury Networks Inc. last week announced a partnership with Cisco Systems Inc. that lets its RF sensor software run on top of Ciscos Aironet access points, so the access points can work as RF sensors. Newbury also introduced a new version of its WiFi Watchdog software, which includes better location tracking and compliance reporting than previous versions, said officials at the Boston company.

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"It allows us to be more of a pure software [player]," said Michael Maggio, president and CEO of Newbury Networks. "Were really trying to get out of the sensor [hardware] market. The real value that we offer is the patented location. In that way, its a nice partnership."

While other companies offer location tracking, industry experts say Newburys software is among the best, albeit not the easiest. "The Newbury software is a little harder to install, but its accurate," said Patrick Guerin, senior security analyst at Key Management Systems, in Colorado Springs, Colo., a systems integrator for several government customers. "Newburys technology takes the signal information and creates a signature; the more you calibrate it, the more detailed the Newbury location features are."

"We did some extensive testing of their products, and with an afternoon of calibration, it is very accurate," said Bill Erdman, director of business development in the wireless networking business unit at Cisco, in San Jose, Calif. "We held a laptop up to the inside of a glass and the outside of a glass, and it denied access from the outside of the glass."

Meanwhile, Network Chemistry Inc. early next year will introduce RFprotect Endpoint, which sits on laptops and keeps them from threatening an enterprise network with malicious hacking or inadvertent security breaches. Often, a laptop will look for and connect to a wireless network even when plugged into the wired Ethernet; RFprotect Endpoint allows the laptops to connect only to preapproved wireless networks, officials said.

"Wireless is really forcing security folks to [figure] out where the perimeter is," said Robert Markovich, president and CEO of Network Chemistry, in Redwood City, Calif. "If you plug into the Ethernet and your laptop is still beaconing wireless, you become a rogue."

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