New WiFi security adds strong encryption

A new security specification for wireless networking incorporates the Advanced Encryption Standard, opening the door for certification under the Federal Information Processing Standard.

WiFi Protected Access 2 is a technical specification from the Wi-Fi Alliance based on the recently approved 802.11i standard.

The combination of AES and dynamic key sequencing should help satisfy government concerns about wireless networking, said Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

"A lot of users have been waiting on the sidelines for 802.11i," Hanzlik said.

The alliance today announced the first round of WPA2 certifications. Eight products from six companies were certified following six months of interoperability testing.

The alliance also expects to announce the first certifications under WiFi Multimedia specification later this month. WMM is based on the emerging 802.11e standard and provides quality of service, enabling use of media such as voice and video over wireless LANs.

"This is the foundation for a new generation of applications," Hanzlik said.

Growing interest in voice over IP is spurring interest in wireless VOIP. "It's a brand new market," Hanzlik said, but availability of QOS in WiFi products could help the market mature.

WiFi Protected Access is the successor to the Wired Equivalent Privacy security protocol originally included in WiFi. WPA corrects a flawed encryption system used in WEP. WPA2 adds the AES algorithm.

AES has been adopted as the government standard for encryption. Products using it are eligible for FIPS 140-2 certification, a requirement for encryption products used in the government.

WPA2 certified products include network interface equipment and access points from:

  • Atheros Communications Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.

  • Broadcom Corp. of Irvine, Calif.

  • Cisco Systems Inc.

  • Instant802 Networks Inc. of Brisbane, Calif.

  • Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif.

  • Realtek Semiconductor Corp. of Taiwan.

  • The WiFi Alliance also is promoting the use of its certification service to help ensure interoperability between wireless LAN products.

    The organization has added four new independent laboratories to the program, so certification to alliance technical specifications is available from five labs with 12 locations around the world.

    About the Author

    William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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