Cracking the wireless security code

By Joel Snyder and Rodney Thayer
Network World, 10/04/04

Original Article On Network World Web Site

Is it possible to deploy a secure wireless LAN with technology available today? That question preys on the minds of IT executives who are tempted to deploy enterprise WLANs, but are hesitant because of security concerns.

So we assembled 23 wireless products from 17 vendors and ran them through a battery of tests aimed at getting the answer.

Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is very weak in many products, and we don't recommend using it other than in very specialized cases. WEP's successor, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) has flaws but provides solid security when combined with 802.1X authentication and deployed carefully. Ultimately, 802.11i, the standard that replaces WEP and WPA, will provide all the tools needed to protect WLANs.

To their credit, vendors are aggressively shipping products at all prices that support enterprise-class security features. Two-thirds of the products tested support 802.1X, and vendors are moving rapidly to comply with 802.11i standards.

Listed here are the details of the 23 products that we put under a security microscope with our battery of tests.
Wireless adapters
Vendor Product 802.11 flavors supported Version Price as tested
3Com 3Com Wireless PC Card with XJACK Antenna 802.11a/b/g $135
Actiontec Wireless PC Card b/g $80
Apple Airport Extreme NIC b/g 3.4.2 $79
Belkin F5D7011 High Speed Wireless Notebook Card b/g $70
Buffalo AirStation WLI-CB-G54 High Speed Wireless Adapter b/g $80
Cisco Aironet 802.11a/b/g Wireless CardBus Adapter a/b/g $199
Linksys WPC55AG Dual Band Adapter a/b/g $144
SMC SMC2536W-AG EliteConnect Universal High Power Wireless Adapter a/b/g $95
Wireless access points
Vendor Product 802.11 flavors supported Version Price as tested
3Com 3Com Wireless LAN Access Point 8750 a/b/g .04.51 $899
Actiontec GT701WG Wireless DSL Gateway b/g $130
Belkin F5D7230 High-Speed Wireless G Router b/g 4.03.03 $90
Buffalo AirStation WBR2-G54 High Speed Mode Wireless Cable/DSL Router b/g 2.21 $150
Cisco Aironet 1100 Access Point b/g IOS 2.2(13)JA1 $499
Compex NetPassage WPE54G-SMA Access Point b/g 1.10 b518 $150
HP ProCurve 520wl dual radio Access Point b/g 2.4.5(758) $589
Linksys WAP54G Access Point b/g 2 $100
Netgear WG302 Prosafe Access Point b/g 2.0.4RC2 $350
Netopia 3347W ADSL 3-D Reach Wi-FI Gateway b 7.3.3r1 $219
Proxim Orinocco AP-4000 a/b/g 2.4.11(821) $899
SMC SMC 2555W-AG Wireless Access Point a/b/g v3.0.0 $800
Wireless switches
Vendor Product 802.11 flavors supported Version Price as tested
Airespace Airespace 4000 with AP-1200 a/b/g 2.1 $12,450
Aruba Aruba 800 wireless switch a/b/g 2.0.4 $2,995
Trapeze Mobility Exchange 20 switch and Mobility Point -252 Access Point a/b/g 2.1.3 $10,043