As the wireless industry pushes for the proliferation of public wireless LANs, security experts continue to issue warnings about keeping the data from becoming public.
At the in New Orleans last week, several companies announced products and services for deploying Wi-Fi, or 802.11b WLAN, services.
Vivato Inc., a Wi-Fi infrastructure startup funded by Intel Corp., launched the Vivato 2.4GHz Outdoor Wi-Fi Switch, a system designed for outdoor WLAN deployments.
When mounted on a rooftop or the top of a tower, the Vivato switch provides outdoor coverage for up to 2.5 miles, the idea being that it can turn hot spots into “hot zones,” according to officials at the San Francisco company.
Vivato mounted two switches here during the CTIA show, one in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and one in the middle of Jackson Square.
The antenna and electronics of the switch are protected by a temperature-controlled, weatherproof enclosure.
The switch sends three simultaneous beams of Wi-Fi throughout the coverage area, directing with a phased array antenna, officials said.
They said the company plans to deploy the switch to office buildings, campuses, warehouses, sports arenas, shopping malls and airports.
The list price for the switch is $13,995. It will be available through VARs in May. An indoor switch from Vivato is due in May as well.
ADC Telecommunications Inc. and The Management Network Group, meanwhile, demonstrated a revenue management application for wireless public access networks at CTIA. The companies showed how carriers can offer convergent billing and policy-based charging for authentication, authorization and accounting for both WLAN and WAN services.
WLAN equipment maker Proxim Inc. and broadband service provider Trillion Digital Communications Inc. announced at the show they have set up wireless networks to connect more than 500 schools and will connect an additional 250 this year.
In addition, Verizon Wireless Inc. plans to offer branded 802.11b WLAN hot-spot services by the third quarter. Working with hot-spot company Wayport Inc., Verizon will provide network monitoring, authentication and billing for the services, which will be available through existing distribution channels, including business-to-business sales teams. Officials said there are similarities between the WLAN services and the wireless broadband services the company plans to offer over Code Division Multiple Access 1xEV-DO WANs but said WLANs are important.
“802.11 will be great spectrum relief,” said Jim Straight, vice president of wireless data and Internet services at Verizon, in Laurel, Md. Straight added, however, that Verizon has sufficient spectrum to offer EV-DO services to several metropolitan areas. The company will branch those services out if they are successful in San Diego and Washington, he said.
Boingo Wireless Inc. and T-Mobile USA Inc. at the show announced plans to combine WLAN and 2.5G network services.
Boingo CEO Sky Dayton said the two companies are developing software to make it easier for users to switch from T-Mobiles branded HotSpot Wi-Fi networks to General Packet Radio Service WANs.
“I think it serves as a model,” Dayton said here. “A user doesnt want to think about what service is available. They just want to get connected.”
New software will include help files, a hot-spot location directory and a setup process that helps users move among networks with limited hassle.
But as WLANs continue to flourish, those who deploy them continue to ignore the myriad inherent security problems, according to a new study by RSA Security Inc., of Bedford, Mass.
The study, released at the CTIA show, found that of 328 wireless access points detected in downtown London, nearly two-thirds did not have Wired Equivalent Privacy encryption turned on. In addition, 100 of the access points were sending out signals identifying the organizations that owned them, and 208 were installed using the default configuration.
This seems to confirm the suspicions of most security experts, who for years have warned that most WLAN implementations are essentially unprotected.
RSA conducted the survey in November in several sections of downtown London. The survey was done by researchers driving through the city, using PDAs equipped with wireless cards and sniffer software.
This is the third such study the company has done, and the statistics show that the number of WLAN access points in the city has increased by nearly 200 percent since September 2001.
“The results of this survey astonished me. Corporations turning to wireless networks for operational flexibility without considering the security risks may be carelessly sacrificing the integrity of their systems,” said Phil Cracknell, a security specialist with the Institute of Information Security, in Wiltshire, England, who helped carry out the survey.
“The emanations from these wireless networks can and do leak outside their buildings, providing access potential to hackers wherever they may be,” Cracknell said. “This represents a real and significant threat to unprotected wireless networks.”
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