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War on Wireless Worms

Startups working on security and management boxes for enterprise wireless LANs are starting to address the special requirements of virus protection on shared 802.11 networks.

The basic problem is that the mobile nature of wireless LAN networks opens up a new way for viruses and worms on the Internet to get onto enterprise networks. A corporate user could, for instance, get contaminated while working at a hotspot at an airport and, as long as they are recognized by the corporate WLAN security system, bring that infection onto the network.

Unstrung has already heard anecdotal evidence from one user – who didn't wish to be named – that he managed to infect his company's network this way. And with more laptops coming with 802.11 standard, it is even possible that users could be associating with other infected laptops on public networks without ever knowing it.

The answer to this particular problem is to quarantine and thoroughly scan machines for viruses when they first come onto the network, blocking those that are found to have an infection from ever getting onto the main company LAN. A couple of WLAN appliance startups have already brought out software that can do this.

Gateway play Vernier Networks Inc. was first out of the gate with its Vernier Virus Filter in September. Perfigo Inc., a startup that makes security and management software designed to be run on a standard Linux server, has launched a similar product this week.

A quick straw poll of other players in the market suggests that virus protection could soon be a standard feature for many. Switch-maker Airespace Inc. and appliance vendors Bluesocket Inc., ReefEdge Inc., and Roving Planet Inc. are all working on variants for forthcoming product upgrades.

Until then, the experts suggest that WLAN road warriors should ensure that the virus scan on their laptop is updated as frequently as possible.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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