Wireless Systems Design

Protect Your Wi-Fi Networks

As 802.11-enabled products multiply, the challenges of securing wireless-local-area networks (WLANs) in the home and office will continue to grow. But the biggest security threat doesn't actually come from attackers. It comes from users who lack the motivation and/or knowledge that are needed to secure their wireless networks. Real 802.11 Security: Wi-Fi Protected Access and 802.11i provides the reasons for security. It also serves as a technical primer so that the reader can understand all of the nuances.

The book's authors, John Edney and William Arbaugh, wrote this volume in a way that's easily accessible to both novice and experienced professionals. Even such feared subjects as WEP cryptology are explained in a clear and accurate manner. Best of all, this book is written as a resource. Because it's organized in a modular way, readers can skip familiar topics without losing understanding of the material.

In occasional sections, an involved discussion of theory is required. Here, the authors give the reader ample warning. The detailed areas can then be skipped until they're needed.

The authors take a systems approach to the topic of WLAN security. They begin with the basics. The first three chapters cover the meaning of security, why Wi-Fi networks are so vulnerable to attack, and the different categories of these attacks. I found this last topic particularly valuable because it discusses attacks both with and without keys. Here, the authors lay a basis for a more involved discussion on cryptology in later chapters.

The second part of the book starts with Chapter 5. It begins by explaining the design of a secure Wi-Fi network. After providing a solid overview of the 802.11 protocol stack, the authors move on to WEP's limited contribution to security. Critically related subjects like WPA, RSN, and IEEE 802.11i are explained in subsequent chapters.

Climbing further up the OSI network layers, the volume then discusses current work on access-control systems, such as 802.1X, EAP, and RADIUS. Even upper-layer authentication methods, like TLS and Kerberos, are examined. Many other topics also are discussed, including the ultra-secure, AES-based system.

Many readers may actually start this book at the end. The third part provides a concise background on public hot spots. The discussion of the data risks and protections that are associated with public access points is especially useful. A technical review of known attacks and actual attack tools is covered along with open-source security implementations.

Real 802.11 Security: Wi-Fi Protected Access and 802.11i by John Edney and William Arbaugh is available from Addison-Wesley (www.awprofessional.com) for $44.99. The ISBN number is 0-321-13620-9.

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