Is VoWLAN In Your Wireless Future?
Even if your clients aren't clamoring for VoWLAN (voice over wireless LAN) solutions at the moment, it won't be long before they will be. According to Infonetics Research, revenue from Wi-Fi phones (i.e. wireless phones that use IP [Internet Protocol] networks) totaled $54.7 million in 2004, and steady growth is expected through 2009. If you want to prepare for this burgeoning market, make sure to educate yourself on the one thing every VoWLAN implementation needs: security.
Wireless Security Is Not A Single Event Or Technology
A recent survey conducted by Nemertes Research revealed only 25% of end users budgeted up front for specialized management and security tools. In an age when databases containing social security numbers are breached and new viruses are unleashed on a regular basis, this is astonishing.
Wireless networks are an especially big target for hackers because so many end users fail to secure their WLANs. Don't make the mistake of letting one of your customers fall into this category by talking you out of securing their network. When their wireless network comes under attack, the finger pointing will turn to you. On the other hand, by ensuring your customers' wireless networks are secure, you'll give them confidence in wireless technology and encourage them to add new technologies such as VoWLAN in the near future.
The most important piece of advice I can give you about wireless security is that it requires a multilayered approach. Here are the security requirements you need to know about before deploying a VoWLAN solution:
- Authentication. As basic as it sounds, users should have to provide a user name and password to access the wireless network ? no exceptions.
- Encryption. WEP (wired equivalent privacy) encryption is full of holes and can easily be hacked. Choose Wi-Fi phones that support 802.11i and WPA2 (Wi-Fi protected access 2) encryption, which will guard against man-in-the-middle attacks (an attack in which an attacker is able to read and modify messages between two parties without either party knowing that the link between them has been compromised).
- Rogue AP (access point) detection. One of the ways hackers crack wireless networks is by posing as wireless APs and tricking users into providing their user names and passwords. Wireless monitoring systems are necessary to detect and shut down rogue APs.
- Intrusion detection. A hacker may use a program that tries multiple user names and passwords in an attempt to gain access to a wireless network. Intrusion detection software can catch such anomalies and lock out the intruder.
- User and network monitoring. Sometimes the biggest security threat to a wireless network is an authorized user who is running an unauthorized application (e.g. Kazaa). Network monitoring tools are necessary to identify and quarantine these users from the network.
- Performance monitoring. Without adequate bandwidth, Wi-Fi phone quality becomes intolerable, because of delays in the conversation and dropped voice packets. Performance monitoring applications let IT administrators know how much bandwidth is being consumed, which helps prevent bottlenecks.
In the installation review Win Sales With Secure Wi-Fi, on page 4, you'll be introduced to Axispoint, a technology services provider that landed a huge WLAN install with the Wildlife Conservation Society. Axispoint's ability to demonstrate wireless network security led to the win. Even before the WLAN install is complete, Axispoint and the client are talking about a VoWLAN rollout. After all, what's a more natural application for a secure wireless network than that?