Light Reading

WPA's Insecure Legacy

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
4/14/2003
50%
50%

A coming upgrade for the 802.11 specification that is being promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance cannot be supported by the majority of wireless LAN equipment already in use, prompting concern among analysts and vendors that older infrastructure could still be used as a backdoor into supposedly secure new networks.

WiFi Protected Access (WPA) is being promoted by the WiFi Alliance as a solution to the security issues that have dogged the adoption of 802.11, especially in the enterprise (see 802.11 Security Issues Sorted?). WPA is a security system comprising the elements already fixed and agreed upon by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) security task group, including: Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) and Counter Mode with CBC-MAC Protocol (CCMP) for over-the-air encryption, and access control standard for user authentication and encryption key distribution. It is supposed to be more secure than the current WEP (wired equivalent privacy) security standard.

Products incorporating WPA are now being tested and should be certified and available in May. However, while the move is a step in the right direction, WPA will be of no benefit to anyone using existing 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) networks. The technology can only be incorporated in new 802.11b, 802.11a (54-Mbit/s over 5GHz) and 802.11g (54-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) products. This is leading to concerns about enterprises mixing newly ratified WPA products with original hardware, as the network can only be as secure as the weakest access point.

“There are issues with WPA backwards compatibility with some products,” confirms Ian Keene, vice president of telecommunications research at Gartner Inc. “If an enterprise or home user went for a single vendor solution then we don’t expect too many problems, but it is a problem for interoperability between different vendors.”

Such issues could cause a major headache for the growing number of enterprises rolling out wireless LAN networks to their employees (see 802.11 WLAN Shipments Double and Europe Set for WLAN Boom). “It is not going to be possible to buy WiFi-Alliance-tested WPA products that are backwards compatible with every previous product, and that could be a big obstacle,” says Keene, adding that he expects to see compatibility problems with the current crop of wireless LAN cards on the market.

The vendors Unstrung spoke to claim to be tackling the compatibility issue. “We are looking into it because there are certainly areas that need to be resolved,” says Proxim Corp.'s (Nasdaq: PROX) solutions marketing manager, Jan Buis. “We are aware of this problem. Security is the hottest issue in wireless LAN at the moment, and as a vendor we must make it our highest priority.”

“We are trying to educate the enterprise user by telling them about these issues,” comments 3Com Corp.’s (Nasdaq: COMS) international segment manager for wireless and security, Angelo Lamme. “A network, after all, can only be as secure as the weakest link.”

While no enterprise is immune to the compatibility problems, both vendors point out that it is the latest adopters of wireless LAN, rather than the earlier, tech-savvy enterprises, that require the greatest amounts of education as to the potential for security holes in the network. “The early adopters of wireless LAN accept some of the insecurities that exist today,” says Buis. “The primary reason why new security features have entered this market is because of the number of customers unwilling to use wireless LAN at present.”

In the short term, at least, vendors in this space face the task of informing users of the pitfalls involved in mixing old and new infrastructure. “This is an ongoing problem,” concludes Gartner’s Keene. “We expect it to be resolved in the next two years, but it isn’t going to happen overnight. It really depends on how well vendors can work with each other to help iron out the problems.”

These latest concerns will do little to combat the growing fear of security problems with enterprise wireless LAN use. In a recent Unstrung poll of readers, 72 percent of respondents perceived security as the major drag on wireless LAN deployment within corporations (see Poll: WLAN Has Limited Life). Recently, RSA Security added fuel to the fire by highlighting the ease with which corporate networks can be hacked (see Hackers Crack London WLANs).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Rick Talbot, Principal Analyst, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   2:12   |   (0) comments


At the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, Rick Talbot shared his positive feedback about the holistic and open approach that Huawei adopts for SDN and NFV. He also found the open sharing at the event valuable as it features different perspectives from Huawei experts, telecom operators, industry analysts as well as security experts.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With David Snow, Principal Analyst, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   2:24   |   (0) comments


David Snow talked about his understanding of Huawei and its SoftCOM strategy at the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, saying that Huawei's wide approach combining IT and CT expertise, introducing big data and analytics into solutions and contributing to the OpenStack community particularly resonate with him and make the company stand out in the industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

10|31|14   |   3:13   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro commented on Huawei's data center capabilities and NFV solutions at the NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, saying that in addition to covering all three key domains of compute, storage and networking, the company also emphasizes the importance of management capabilities and professional services, which are essential in making NFV a reality.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Michael Howard, Co-founder & Principal Analyst, Infonetics Research

10|31|14   |   5:25   |   (0) comments


Michael Howard talked about SDN, NFV, and OpenStack adoption at Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014. Particularly, he pointed out that Virtual Enterprise CPE is the top NFV use case that operators plan to invest in over 2014 and 2015 to deliver new enterprise services through virtualized functions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Jerry Caron, Senior Vice President, Current Analysis

10|31|14   |   3:11   |   (0) comments


At Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014, Jerry Caron from Current Analysis said that orchestration and management are key to realizing SDN and NFV for global carriers, and the approach that Huawei is taking, with its FusionSphere Cloud OS at the core, is in the right direction to address the challenges.
LRTV Documentaries
Broadband Battles

10|31|14   |   01:39   |   (0) comments


This year's Broadband World Forum featured a number of show floor battles focused on access gear, components and coffee.
Jonestown
Mobile Backhaul: Going to the Dark Side?

10|30|14   |   2:26   |   (1) comment


Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan shares his view on a dark trend that bubbled up at Light Reading's annual backhaul conference in NYC.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With CEO of SwitchCom

10|30|14   |   4:13   |   (0) comments


SwitchCom, an IT company based in Angola, recommends a variety of Huawei solutions and hardware to their customers in the energy industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy

10|30|14   |   4:08   |   (0) comments


Gosaye Mengistie of Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy discusses the collaboration with Huawei in that country.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Dongfang Electronics Corporation

10|30|14   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Dongfang Electronics Corporation, headquartered in Chengdu, China, is one of China's largest manufacturers of power generators and contractors of power station projects.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Zimbabwe's Customers

10|30|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


Representatives of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Power and Development discuss the energy needs of their country as well as new areas of improvement due to enhanced ICT capabilities.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Colbún Chile

10|30|14   |   4:29   |   (0) comments


In Chile, an aging energy infrastructure was in dire need of a modern update. Claudio Valenzuela of Colbún discusses how Huawei's ICT solutions continue to provide crucial information to improve the grid and how an in-country engineer is a cricial asset.
Upcoming Live Events
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 30, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Microsoft's Skype Embraces WebRTC on IE
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/27/2014
FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/28/2014
Wheeler Gets Down With OTT
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/29/2014
China's MVNOs Hit the Wall
Robert Clark, 10/27/2014
Let's Not Kill SDN & NFV With Silos
Francois Locoh-Donou, Senior VP, Global Products Group, Ciena, 10/28/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed