IPass Blocks 'Rogue' WLANs
Business-oriented wireless Internet service provider iPass Inc. has developed an access protocol for 802.11b networks that is as much about stopping its corporate customers from roaming on "rogue" access points as it is about allowing entry to the wonders of WiFi.
The firm's generic interface specification for smart client to access gateway authentication -- GIS for short (phew!) -- has been designed to enable 802.11b users to roam on different providers' access points. "What they won't be able to do is get access to rogue access points," says Jon Russo, VP of marketing at iPass.
The firm says it has worked with the security group at the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA) to standardize its protocol. The WECA group is working on its own standard for secure wireless roaming. However, as Russo points out, this is likely to be part of the 802.1x specification, so could be a couple of years out.
Another group of around 50 wireless LAN companies, calling themselves Pass-One, has also started work on a roaming standard. But for the moment, GIS is the only one available for use.
The GIS protocol allows a client device to authenticate and access many different access points. However, as has been well documented on "war driving" hacker sites such as Netstumbler, not all wireless environments are secure.
"We're finding a lot of them require a user to tear down their personal firewall in order to connect, and we can't have that for our customers," says Russo. So the GIS protocol also prevents roaming on these kinds of access points.
IPass already has a well established narrowband dialup access service for business customers. Russo says one of the next steps might be to combine the wide-area and LAN businesses to provide access across WLAN and 3G networks. The firm already has settlement agreements with major service providers, Russo says, which could help on the billing side of the equation.
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung