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Wireless LAN Security

INTRODUCTION Wireless local area networks (WLANs) based on the Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) standards are one of today's fastest growing technologies in businesses, schools, and homes, for good reasons. They provide mobile access to the Internet and to enterprise networks so users can remain connected away from their desks. These networks can be up and running quickly when there is no available wired Ethernet infrastructure. They can be made to work with a minimum of effort without relying on specialized corporate installers. Wireless LANs are a boon for organizations that don't have time to setup wired LANs, make networked temporary offices a reality and remove the wire work that goes on in setting LANs. They are reported to reduce setting up costs by 15%. But, with these benefits come the security concerns. One doesn't need to have physical access to your wires to get into your LANs now. Any attacker, even though sitting in your parking lot, or in your neighboring building, can make a mockery of the security mechanisms of your WLAN. If you don't care about security, then go ahead; buy those WLAN cards/ Access Points. But, if you do, watch out for the developments on the security front of 802.11. As this report and many such others tell, contrary to 802.11's claims, WLANs have very little security. An attacker can listen to you, take control of your laptops/desktops and forge him to be you. He can cancel your orders, make changes into your databases, or empty your credit cards. So, what is the remedy? Don't trust anybody!!! Think like an attacker and take proper countermeasures. Have dynamic system administrators. Those attackers won't be lucky every time! The key is, be informed! Wireless LANs (WLANs) are quickly gaining popularity due to their ease of installation and higher employee mobility. Together with PDAs and other mobility devices, they go on to improve the quality of life Types of Wireless LANS The part of success behind the popularity of WLANs is due to the availability of the 802.11 standard from IEEE. The standard specifies operation of WLANs in three ways: Infrastructure Mode: Every WLAN workstation (WS) communicates to any machine through an access point (AP). The machine can be in the same WLAN or connected to the outside world through the AP. Ad Hoc Network Mode: Every WS talks to another WS directly. Mixed Network Mode: Every WS can work in the above two modes simultaneously. This is also called the Extended Basic Service Set (EBSS)

Wireless Fidelity Definition Wi-Fi, or Wireless Fidelity is freedom : it allows you to connect to the internet from your couch at home, in a hotel room or a conference room at work without wires . Wi-Fi is a wireless technology like a cell phone. Wi-Fi enabled computers send and receive data indoors and out; anywhere within the range of a base station. And the best thing of all, it is fast. However you only have true freedom to be connected any where if your computer is configured with a Wi-Fi CERTIFIED radio (a PC card or similar device). Wi-Fi certification means that you will be able to connect anywhere there are other Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products - whether you are at home , office , airports, coffee shops and other public areas equipped with a Wi-Fi access availability. Wi-Fi will be a major face behind hotspots , to a much greater extent. More than 400 airports and hotels in the US are targeted as Wi-Fi hotspots. The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED logo is your only assurance that the product has met rigorous interoperability testing requirements to assure products from different vendors will work together. The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED logo means that it is a "safe" buy. Wi-Fi certification comes from the Wi-Fi Alliance, a non profit international trade organisation that tests 802.11 based wireless equipment to make sure that it meets the Wi-Fi standard and works with all other manufacturer's Wi-Fi equipment on the market. The Wi-Fi Alliance (WELA) also has a Wi-Fi certification program for Wi-Fi products that meet interoperability standards. It is an international organisation devoted to certifying interoperability of 802.11 products and to promoting 802.11as the global wireless LAN std across all market segment. Wi-Fi (short for Wireless Fidelity") is the popular term for a high-frequency wireless local area network (WLAN) Promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance (Formerly WECA - Wireless Ethernet Carriers Association) Used generically when referring to any type of 802.11 network, whether 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, dual-band, etc. The term is promulgated by the Wi-Fi Alliance WLAN Components One important advantage of WLAN is the simplicity of its installation. Installing a wireless LAN system is easy and can eliminate the needs to pull cable through walls and ceilings. The physical architecture of WLAN is quite simple. Basic components of a WLAN are access points (APs) and Network Interface Cards (NICs)/client adapters. Access Points Access Point (AP) is essentially the wireless equivalent of a LAN hub. It is typically connected with the wired backbone through a standard Ethernet cable, and communicates with wireless devices by means of an antenna. An AP operates within a specific frequency spectrum and uses 802.11 standard specified modulation techniques. It also informs the wireless clients of its availability, and authenticates and associates wireless clients to the wireless network. Network Interface Cards (NICs)/client adapters

Wireless client adapters connect PC or workstation to a wireless network either in ad hoc peer-topeer mode or in infrastructure mode with APs (will be discussed in the following section). Available in PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) card and PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect), it connects desktop and mobile computing devices wirelessly to all network resources. The NIC scans the available frequency spectrum for connectivity and associates it to an access point or another wireless client. It is coupled to the PC/workstation operating system using a software driver. The NIC enables new employees to be connected instantly to the network and enable Internet access in conference rooms. WLAN Architecture The WLAN components mentioned above are connected in certain configurations. There are three main types of WLAN architecture: Independent, Infrastructure, and Microcells and Roaming. Independent WLAN The simplest WLAN configuration is an independent (or peer-to-peer) WLAN. It is a group of computers, each equipped with one wireless LAN NIC/client adapter. In this type of configuration, no access point is necessary and each computer in the LAN is configured at the same radio channel to enable peer-to-peer networking. Independent networks can be set up whenever two or more wireless adapters are within range of each other. REFERENCE computer networks by Andrew S Tanenbaum