The security of wireless hot spots for internet access for IT users on the road was the subject of discussion at the CeBIT America 2004 conference in New York.
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Panelists agreed that there are ways to ensure that safe use - and continued vigilance - can keep it that way.
"Love the access, but don't trust it ... and secure it," said Frederick Felman, vice president of marketing at firewall and security software company Zone Labs.
Many large businesses are already incorporating hot-spot wireless access into their mobile strategies, he added, and they are finding ways to make it secure using policy management and service providers who take their security seriously.
"In the 1990s, IT wanted to give more access to applications" over the web, Felman said. "Now, we want to make them more secure."
Fellow panelist Ike Nassi, chief technology officer at wireless networks supplier FireTide, argued that virtual private networks could also be used to ensure security for hot-spot access, but Felman disputed that view.
"Hackers have huge networks of PCs, and they're usually yours and mine," Felman said, referring to hardware that may have been compromised. "Wireless networks are scary, but wired networks are scary, too."
Sai Subramanian, vice president of product marketing and strategic marketing for Navini Networks, said hot-spot use is now so important a tool for many IT workers that new methods will have to be created to boost security.
"In the enterprise setting, as long as people want the freedom of wireless, Wi-Fi will work," Subramanian said. "In the enterprise context, wireless makes perfect sense."
Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld