Symbol Crashes WLAN Security Party

Tools will address two major concerns of WLAN customers: how to secure the network without breaking the bank and whether to upgrade to a faster wireless LAN.

Symbol Technologies Inc. this week will introduce products that address two major concerns of WLAN customers: how to secure the network without breaking the bank and whether to upgrade to a faster wireless LAN.

At the NetWorld+Interop show in Las Vegas, the Holtsville, N.Y., company will unveil its MobiusGuard suite of WLAN security offerings that range from its proprietary fix for the flawed WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) to a way to design and set up secure VLANs (virtual LANs). The suite is an a la carte deal that includes consulting services.

"Customers know they want security, but theyre not sure how much," said Ray Martino, vice president of wireless network products at Symbol. "We wanted to [help] our customers complement what they already have installed."

MobiusGuard comprises basic security mechanisms that can operate simultaneously or individually, as well as heavy-duty, stand-alone architectures.

"A lot of people are still trying to figure out what their vulnerabilities are and where theyre going to go with this," said Mark van Pelt, a WLAN consultant with Donovan Consulting Group Inc., in Atlanta. "A financial industry customer will put in a VPN [virtual private network] immediately. But most companies will start without one and add it later; theyre not sure where to go and what to guard against."

Symbol has yet to release pricing for the parts of MobiusGuard but said the VPN and VLAN options will be based on a client-licensing program.

AirBeam Safe, which is based on technology from Columbitech AB, of Stockholm, Sweden, is a VPN client that lets users roam from access point to access point without having to re-authenticate. It supports both DOS and Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC operating system.

For better encryption, Symbol is introducing Keyguard, which is its version of TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol). TKIP bests WEP in that it can change keys on the fly. TKIP is going through the standards process at the IEEE, where it is known as 802.11i. But Symbol officials said they want to release something now, although it will mean software upgrades later.

MobiusGuard also includes ways to help customers configure wireless VLANs, making it possible to allow different levels of network access to the same access point.

In addition, the company is introducing the Mobius 5224, an access point that supports 802.11a but can interoperate with 802.11b networks. It costs $799.

802.11a is faster than 802.11b, offering speeds of up to 54M bps. It also offers up to eight channels, rather than three, so it is more scalable. However, Symbol said customers arent yet embracing 802.11a due mainly to a lack of PC drivers for Palm Inc.s Palm OS and for Pocket PC devices.

"We dont think were going to sell a lot of those this quarter or next quarter, but when youre comfortable that theres a time to use it, you wont have to tear your existing network apart," Martino said.

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