Current Wi-Fi hardware not powerful enough to be secure

Current Wi-Fi hardware not powerful enough to be secure

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In June the IEEE is expected to finally ratify the 802.11i security standard that uses the AES technology, a powerful 128-bit encryption technology.

AES is a standard currently used by the government and will require new access cards and in many cases APs, according to Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance. Current processors in the Wi-Fi cards and in many APs are not powerful enough to encrypt and decrypt 128-bit ciphers.

“Because WPA2 uses AES at its core, it requires an upgrade to support the co-processing needed,” Hanzlik said.

Cisco, Intermec Technology, Vivato, and Intel have all commented on this issue and have identified some existing hardware that may need upgrading. Cisco’s AP models 1100, 1200, and the newly announced 1300 outdoor AP/bridge already support AES and software will be available as soon as IEEE ratifies the new standard. Intermec Technology’s WA 21 and WA 22 access points with dual b/g radios will need to be upgraded, they are releasing and AES compliant radio late in the second quarter. Vivato Wi-Fi switch has an AES encryption co-processor built in, however the company has not committed to a time when the required software upgrade will be available and Intel’s Centrino processors are compatible with AES and will also need a software upgrade that will be available at time of ratification.

The IEEE is also expected to ratify a QoS spec called IEEE 802.11e by the end of this year. The spec will consist of two components, WME (Wi-Fi Multimedia Extensions) and WSM (Wi-Fi Scheduled Multimedia).

On the business side QoS will be mainly targeted in voice over Wi-Fi applications on VoIP (voice over IP) devices, according to Hanzlik. On the consumer side, QoS services will be required as consumer electronics vendors put Wi-Fi into TVs, DVD players, and home entertainment systems.

“You need to be able to manage bandwidth and prioritize the packets if you’re sending a video image from your PC to your television,” said Hanzlik. “Eventually it will manage cell phones that include Wi-Fi and switch between networks as appropriate,”

Seeking to expedite the QoS standard, as it did with the 802.11i security standard when it took the stable portions of the specification to create WPA, the Wi-Fi Alliance will start a certification program for the WME component of the 802.11e spec in September.

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