AirPatrol tackles microwave menace

Wireless security company AirPatrol is set to enter Europe, and promises to close off threats ranging from hackers to microwave ovens.

Wireless security company AirPatrol is set to enter Europe, and promises to close off threats ranging from hackers to microwave ovens.

Chief executive Nicholas Miller said the Vancouver-based company would be setting up in Europe within the next three months, and recruiting resellers, especially those already handling Checkpoint products.

The news coincided with the launch of AirPatrol's Wireless Threat Management product suite, which Miller said will provide a low-cost and effective defence against wireless attacks.

Until recently, the company has sold its wireless sensors through OEMs, but it is now launching its own products under the WiVision brand, and venturing beyond its North American homeland.

Airpatrol will need to compete against the likes of AirDefense and AirMagnet, but Miller said his company's approach provides a simple and inexpensive answer to wireless security.

The system consists of central management software, a WiVision client that is installed on company laptops, and sensors to detect both WiFi and cellular activity. The sensors allow the system to determine the physical location of any machine, and the central management software can send down new rules to Checkpoint firewalls placed at the edge of the corporate network to block traffic from any new-found threat.

It is a major fly in the ointment for the whole wireless paradigm
Nicholas Miller
CEOAirPatrol
The client software also ensures that any laptop that connects to the company wired LAN immediately has its wireless connection turned off. "The danger to laptops is probably at its worst when connected to a wired environment, because it can open the corporate network to outside threats," said Miller.

He said that by being able to dynamically control firewall rules from the centre, it simplifies the way wireless access is deployed. "Once you have the threat management system in place, you can just plug in new access points at the edge of the network. Any access point that does WPA encryption is OK."

He added that a new type of sensor was also planned to pick up radio interference that could disrupt the working of wireless networks. "As wireless network speeds increase and you crank up the performance, it gets increasingly fragile," said Miller.

A microwave oven or even a cordless phone could start to affect the running of a wireless network, he said. "This is a real and growing problem. If a microwave oven is switched on, it has no MAC address to show where it is."

AirPatrol's answer is to use the sensors and management software to determine the physical location of the offending device – Miller says it can pinpoint down to within 6 feet – and turn it off. "There is no other mitigation strategy with a microwave oven. The only way to stop it is to pull out the plug. It is a major fly in the ointment for the whole wireless paradigm."

Miller said his company, which currently has just 25 employees, mainly engineers, will be funding its expansion overseas with a new round of funding. "We haven't gone the venture capital route. We will go for large private funds. It is a big opportunity and we need the funding to help us expand," he said.

He said he will go through the existing Checkpoint reseller channel to reach European customers. "A big part of the solution is the firewalls they know and love."

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