BT has become one of the first large organisations to roll out blocking technology to prevent its 60,000 staff logging on to unofficial wireless networks that could expose the firm to hacking and virus attacks.
The company is deploying technology from Airdefense to detect and block wireless networks which are either installed by staff who are unaware of the security risks, or which are accessible on BT sites from nearby buildings.
The project will allow BT staff the flexibility to work at multiple locations using wireless enabled laptops and mobile devices to securely access e-mail, customer records and other work applications.
Ray Stanton, global head of security at BT, said that the technology will allow BT to meet the same security compliance standards with mobile networks as it meets with fixed networks.
"If you have to provide a level of assurance about your compliance needs, how do you do that? Most companies know how to do it in a fixed infrastructure. You have to provide that same level of service in wireless," he said.
BT has rolled out wireless sensors to 15 of its 21 UK sites, and is planning a phased roll out to sites in Europe and the US over the next 12 to 19 months.
The deployment has identified several cases where BT staff have deployed unofficial wireless network devices, which could expose their laptops to malicious code or other attacks.
BT has also identified several malicious wireless hotspots that appear to have been planted by hackers and has begun investigations.
"The organic life-form still remains the biggest threat. It has show us that inadvertently people are messing things up. But we are educating them what not to do," said Stanton.
BT began scoping the project last year, before going through a long technology selection process and selecting Airdefense.
Because wireless technology is generally immature, Airdefense needed to solve some technical problems before the technology was rolled out.
Stanton said that one of the difficulties facing companies that wanted to deploy wireless security is that there is a shortage of IT staff with wireless security skills.
"You need to have the right technical staff with understanding of wireless. Do not just treat it as another network. Understand who is qualified with radio frequency expertise," he said.
Mobile security falling short
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