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Users urged to beef up WiMax security

Antony Savvas

Long-range wireless WiMax deployments are expected in 2007, but users should expect greater security than is currently on offer.

In a report on WiMax deployments, analyst firm ABI Research said, “Contrary to many users' expectations, WiMax does have a number of security vulnerabilities. The need to plug those gaps in its defences creates attractive revenue opportunities for security solutions vendors.”

ABI analyst Stan Schatt said, "Early Wi-Fi users enjoyed a false sense of security until there were some well-publicised hacking exploits. The WiMax Forum industry body has emphasised how much more secure WiMax is than early Wi-Fi. As a result, there may be WiMax customers who are similarly lulled into a false sense of security."

The flaws, said Schatt, would begin to show themselves once the first big WiMax roll-outs occured.

He said that gaps in WiMax security fell into three categories: user terminals, intrusion detection, and connectivity service networks.

User terminals will need encryption acceleration to handle AES processing demands. At the edge of WiMax networks, access service networks offer the ideal place for vendors to add intrusion detection and protection software and hardware. And connectivity service networks, as part of carrier back offices, will require stateful firewall software or robust firewall appliances, as well as additional Radius servers to handle the extra load imposed by roaming clients on WiMax authentication.

Schatt said that, with the exception of a few large companies, such as Motorola, Nortel and Alcatel, few WiMax vendors had the internal expertise to fill all these security gaps, which left the field open for a number of smaller specialised developers to create and supply solutions.

"To some extent, WiMax security specialists will attempt to sell solutions directly to end- users. But the lesson learned from Wi-Fi is that these products are most attractive to customers when tightly integrated. So most WiMax security solutions will be offered through partnerships with WiMax equipment vendors," he said.

Cavium Networks, AirTight Networks and Redline Communications are among companies already offering WiMax security tools.

Intel completes WiMax chip design >>

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