Broadcoms SecureEZSetup Guards Consumer WLANs

Addressing the absence of security on home networks-a real concern for many enterprise IT managers-the company introduces a tool that eliminates the need to manually enter network settings.

Chipmaker Broadcom Corp. on Monday announced a software tool designed to attack the problem of security on home wireless LANs by eliminating the need to manually enter network settings.

At the same time, the Irvine, Calif.-based company said it would update its 54g chipset to increase the range of 802.11g products by as much as 30 percent.

The vast majority of consumer WLANs—more than 80 percent, according to Broadcom—have no security, meaning that enterprise users are likely to be exposing their data to the world when they access the Internet via Wi-Fi at home. Most WLAN hardware is designed to work out of the box with security turned off, in order to make connecting as simple as possible.

Broadcoms new software, called SecureEZSetup, takes a different tack, turning security on by default but making setup almost fully automatic. Users enter the answers to two questions, such as their birth date and pets name, and the setup tool does the rest, configuring the hardwares Service Set Identifier (SSID) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security, registering the PC on the network and installing WPA keys on both the PC and access point.

The two questions are used to generate the WPA keys, meaning the information can be recalled if needed, unlike a randomly generated string of characters. No other password entry or configuration is needed, Broadcom said.

"In our belief, this is revolutionary," said Jeff Abramowitz, Broadcoms senior director of wireless LAN marketing. "Youve just got to remember your birthday and your pets name to set up a network. Thats a lot easier than learning about WPA, SSIDs and encryption. For enterprises, the home has been a vulnerability, and this locks down that access point."

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about a WLAN security protocol recently released by Cisco Systems.

WPA is a stopgap technology for encryption and authentication, built into all Wi-Fi gear, that fixes the problems of the original Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) standard and paves the way for the upcoming IEEE 802.11i standard. SecureEZSetup uses WPA-Personal security.

One catch is that SecureEZSetup will only auto-configure other hardware enabled with the technology. Other certified Wi-Fi gear will work with SecureEZSetup hardware, but security and network setup must be done manually on that hardware, as usual, Broadcom said.

Next Page: A software development kit allows manufacturers to give the tool an individual look and feel.