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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Wi-fi nets get security makeover
Office worker using wi-fi
Wireless technology has proved popular in offices
The security systems built into wireless networks have had an overhaul.

The update uses stronger encryption and does a better job of letting only authorised users join wireless nets.

The improvements have been made to re-assure businesses that wi-fi networks can be made safe enough to be really useful and widely deployed.

However, with a lot of older, insecure wireless technology already installed, it could be a while before all networks are upgraded and made more secure.

Security shortfall

Ever since wireless, or wi-fi, networks started to be prove popular they have scored high on ease of use and low on security.

Problems with the original encryption system built in to the wi-fi specifications, called Wired Equivalent Privacy, made it possible for patient hackers to work out the keys used to scramble data being sent through the air.

This original security system was replaced by an interim technology called Wi-fi Protected Access (WPA) which has now also been updated.

WPA2 uses a US government-approved encryption system to scramble data and also does a more rigorous job of checking that people who want to use a wireless net have permission to do so.

Although wireless networks are catching on, many firms have shied away from using them in large numbers because of fears about security.

A poorly protected wireless network can provide a backdoor into a company's computer system.

The improved wireless technology also makes it easier for firms to manage their crop of wi-fi nets.

The first products built to the new security specifications have already appeared.

Older wireless hardware that used the interim WPA technology can be upgraded to use the new system.

However, the security of wireless networks is likely to remain low for some time because so much older, insecure hardware is already in use.

Surveys regularly show that many people do not turn on even the basic security systems that all wireless networking systems possess.


SEE ALSO:
Wireless net to get speed boost
15 Aug 04  |  Technology
City first for wi-fi connection
06 Aug 04  |  Lancashire
'Hi, I'm on the plane'
26 Jul 04  |  Magazine
Wi-fi sensor net aids wine makers
06 Jul 04  |  Technology
Rail users get wi-fi net access
06 Jul 04  |  England
Finance firms risking wi-fi woe
22 Jun 04  |  Technology


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