Wireless LANs (WLANs) are quickly becoming the connectivity platform of choice across all types of organizations because of their flexibility, convenience and ability to improve productivity. As WLANs evolve from best-effort to mission-critical infrastructure, organizations find that the operational aspects of network security take on much greater importance. They discover that technical requirements are only one part of the equation. Regulatory requirements relating to wireless networks consume a significant amount of time and resources. As a result, many organizations are rethinking their approach to security in their network operations.
Effectively managing wireless security presents many challenges. Because wireless networks are based on RF spectrum, they are inherently hard to control and allow malicious attacks much more easily than with wired networks. Attackers can execute wireless attacks, such as denial-of-service and man-in-the-middle, using simple, off-the-shelf hardware and free software.
Another security issue involves well-meaning users who set up rogue (or unauthorized) consumer-grade access points (APs) in the workplace. These users, unaware of the security implications of their actions, can easily compromise the corporate network’s security. Related problems occur when laptops in dense urban settings or open, public Wi-Fi networks connect to the organization’s wired network.
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