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
Dr. Dong Sun Talks About Carriers' Digital Transformation & Huawei’s Telco OS

1|29|15   |   6:28   |   (0) comments


Dr. Dong Sun, Chief Architect of Digital Transformation Solutions at Huawei, discusses how telecom operators can become digital ecosystem enablers and deliver optimal user experiences that are in real-time, on-demand, all-online, DIY and social (ROADS).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Chief Network Architect Talks about Network Experience & Operators’ Strategies

1|29|15   |   3:39   |   (0) comments


In the digital age, network experience has become the primary productivity especially for telecom operators. In this video, Wenshuan Dang, Huawei’s Chief Network Architect, discusses how carriers can tackle the challenge of infrastructure complexity in order to enhance business agility and improve user experience.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Virtual CPE

1|27|15   |   01:38   |   (4) comments


As NFV strategies evolve from tests and trials to production telco networks, expect to hear a lot about virtual CPE (customer premises equipment) rollouts during 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
Optical Is Hot in 2015

1|23|15   |   01:56   |   (2) comments


Optical comms technology underpins the whole communications sector and there are some really hot trends set for 2015.
LRTV Custom TV
Policy Control in the Fast Lane

1|22|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


What's making policy control strategic in 2015 and beyond? Amdocs talks with Heavy Reading's Graham Finnie about the key factors driving change in the data services landscape. Find out what his policy management research reveals about the road ahead for policy control – and sign up for
LRTV Documentaries
Highlights From the 2020 Vision Executive Summit

1|21|15   |   4:33   |   (2) comments


In December 2014, Light Reading brought together telecom executives in Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss their vision for high-capacity networks through the end of the decade. The intimate, interactive meeting was set against the backdrop of Iceland's spectacular natural beauty. As one of the event's founding sponsors, Cisco's Doug Webster shared his company's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Harmonic, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment with Huawei

1|20|15   |   5:42   |   (1) comment


At IBC, Peter Alexander, Senior Vice President & CMO at Harmonic, speaks about the growing interest in pay-TV service and its branching into multiple devices.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sony Marketing Director Olivier Bovis Discusses the Outlook for 4K and Cooperation With Huawei at IBC 2014

1|20|15   |   6:50   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Pay-TV Partner Envivio, Helping Carriers Accelerate 4K Video Deployment

1|20|15   |   2:57   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Olivier Bovis, Marketing Director of Sony, speaks about the coming of the 4K era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Pay-TV's Networked Future

1|20|15   |   6:29   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about the future of the pay-TV industry and its transition.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Jeff Heynen: Distributed Access Will Help MSOs Compete in the Future

1|20|15   |   2:26   |   (0) comments


At IBC, Jeff Heynen, Principal Analyst at Infonetics, speaks about moving to distributed access and the future trend of cable business.
LRTV Interviews
Cisco Talks Transformation

1|20|15   |   13:02   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Steve Saunders sat down with Cisco VP of Products & Solutions Marketing Doug Webster at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. They spoke about Cisco's approach to network virtualization as well as how service providers can begin to monetize high-capacity networks through the end of the decade.
Upcoming Live Events
February 5, 2015, Washington, DC
February 19, 2015, The Fairmont San Jose, San Jose, CA
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 9-10, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2-3, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
Infographics
Hot Topics
Google Continues Gigabit Expansion
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 1/27/2015
Cablevision's New WiFi Try – Freewheeling Enough?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 1/26/2015
Overture Builds on NFV Foundation
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 1/27/2015
LightSpeed Looks to Plug the Gigabit Gap
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 1/23/2015
Parks Predicts HBO OTT Success
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 1/23/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Weekly Executive Interview
Join us live for Light Reading's interview with Jay Samit, the newly appointed CEO of publicly traded SeaChange International Inc. With a resume that includes Sony, EMI, Universal, Intel and Microsoft, Samit brings a reputation as an entrepreneur and a disruptor to his new role at the video solutions company. Hear what he has to say about the opportunities in video, as well as the outlook for cable, telco, OTT and mobile service providers.