New chips to secure WLans

New chips that address the security vulnerabilities in wireless Lans are expected to ship in the next few months, writes Antony...

New chips that address the security vulnerabilities in wireless Lans are expected to ship in the next few months, writes Antony Adshead.

Processor manufacturers are developing chips that will use the Temporal Key Initiation Protocol (TKIP) authentication method and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption layer, which have been developed as part of the 802.11i security initiative. The technologies will replace the vulnerable Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP) security standard.

WEP encryption is vulnerable because it has predictable repetitions in its algorithm that make it easier to crack. Over the next few months, chip manufacturer Atheros, which supplies Intel, Proxim, D-corp and Sony, plans to ship a chipset that includes support for both TKIP and AES.

However, Atheros may be running ahead of the game. A recent report by analyst firm Gartner said TKIP is not expected to be finalised in the first half of 2002 and AES will not be incorporated into chipsets until late 2003.

Until then, users will have to seek other methods of making wireless Lans secure, said Ian Keene, an analyst at Gartner. "Wireless equipment manufacturers are doing users no favours - all security features are switched off as a default," he said. "Users need to address this and turn on what is there. If they need high levels of security, the addition of a virtual private network to their wireless Lan is necessary in the short- to medium-term."

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