Microsoft home WLAN debut promises security headache for IT managers

Microsoft's plan to enter the consumer wireless LAN market in the autumn bodes ill for IT managers concerned with securing and...

Microsoft's plan to enter the consumer wireless LAN market in the autumn bodes ill for IT managers concerned with securing and managing their network access points.

IDC has predicted that the installed base of wireless LAN cards will reach 100 million units by 2004.

Widespread growth of the home and public-access wireless LAN markets will only mean headaches for IT managers, who are likely to encounter more unauthorised and insecure access points set up without their knowledge by employees, said Chris Kozup, an analyst at Meta Group.

He added that users would have to scramble to integrate home and road wireless LAN use with corporate networks.

A recent survey of 159 IT professionals by ComputerWorld magazine in the US found that almost half of them were not confident that all of their wireless LAN access points were secured; 30% have found rogue access points.

Microsoft plans to build the devices around chip sets manufactured by Intersil - marking a shift from its long-standing relationship with Intel - with Microsoft-branded hardware built by Accton Technology in Singapore.

A shortlist of the Microsoft products that have already gained Wi-Fi certification has been posted on the Web site operated by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, a nonprofit trade association in the US.

The site shows that Microsoft has already obtained certification for a home networking access point/router, a home networking PC card and a home networking Universal Serial Bus (USB) adapter.

Microsoft said it plans to sell products based on 802.11b, but Intersil and Accton also offer 802.11a products, providing an easy future migration path for Microsoft.

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