The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry body whose members include the major suppliers of PC WLan cards and data access points, announced it has finalised a new security standard that will make it much harder for intruders to crack WLans.
Up until now, standard WLan kit has been bundled with the WEP security protocol, which has been heavily criticised for its lack of robustness against external security threats.
The Wi-Fi Alliance used CeBIT to launch its new WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security solution, which is a much harder protocol to crack, and which must be included in all Wi-Fi Alliance-approved products from the third quarter of this year.
WPA itself, however, is an interim protocol that will be improved further when the even stronger TGi standard is ratified by alliance members. This protocol can easily be upgraded to TGi when its ready, according to Andrea Vocale, business development manager for wireless networking at Cisco, which is a leading Wi-Fi Alliance member.
The dilemma faced by companies when it comes to Wi-Fi security was illustrated by some new wireless access points launched by 3Com at CeBIT. The 8200, 8500 and 8700 access points do not include WPA. Instead, like most products currently on the market, they feature the flawed 40bit WEP.
On the bandwidth front, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that it expects the important new access standard, 802.11g, to be ratified by the IEEE in either June or August this year.
The 802.11g standard is important because it offers users access speeds of up to 54mbps using unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4GHz band. Similar speeds are possible using the existing 802.11a standard, but take-up has been low because the technology uses limited licensed spectrum in the 5GHz band.
802.11g is also a big step up from the established 802.11b technology, which only offers access at up to 11mbps, using 2.4GHz.