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Wireless Issues

Wireless networking (WLAN - Wireless Local Area Network) is currently the fastest growing connectivity solution in the UK. Broadband has overtaken dial-up as the majority share connection speed and so the internet is a very desirable place to be. It is so desirable in fact that people want to surf the web from the garden, the living room and the bedroom (well, obviously!) and so wireless networking is our new friend.

 The Standard Rules for Securing Home Wireless Networking:

  1. Turn off your SSID (The name of your wireless network) on your router or access point so it is more difficult to find.

  2. Change the SSID name to something other than the default as hackers know what they are. Also choose a name that is not related to where it is or which company uses it.

  3. Turn on Wireless Isolation - this means that each machine can see the router and nothing else - ie. none of the other computers connected to the WLAN. this can help make life more difficult for hackers.

  4. Choose WPA2 802.11 encryption over WPA 802.11 Over WPA2-PSK over WPA-PSK over WEP and use the longest encryption you can - i.e.. 256 bit or however many characters in a code you can remember-.

  5. Use directional antennas where possible, do not just fire your wireless network all over the town!

The 802.11 standards for WiFi - Serious Jargonism Here!!!!

The 802.11 standards for WiFi now come in an assortment of flavours; 802.11g is backwards compatible with 802.11b (ie. if you buy a 54Mbps card, it will work with older 11Mbps ones) The current standards, 802.11a,b,g & n are all actually separate although they are often teamed together in various products. 802.11b & g both function in the 2.4 GHz bandwidth range along with microwave ovens and Bluetooth devices. This is a crowded bandwidth but 802.11a&g do now co-exist well due changes that were made to allow this. Although 802.11b&g share a frequency range, they are different speeds. 802.11b is 11MBit/sec whereas 802.11g is 54MBit/sec like 802.11a. Confused yet? Yes 802.11a&g are both 54MB/s because the architecture is similar but 802.11b&g are both 2.4 GHz whereas 802.11a is 5GHz. Because of 802.11a's 5GHz frequency it is absorbed more readily by most materials and requires a very uncluttered path between access points or it does not work. 802.11n is a new standard being rolled out now with a theoretical max bandwidth of 540MB/s and should also have a range that is superior.

Dual banding and 'Super G' networks are ways of bonding channels or packet bursting of g networks together to increase the range up to four times and the speed to 108MB/s or 125MB/s but still use the same architecture and frequency of g. There are rumours that 'Super G' networks cause interference with other devices.

For a list of all of the task groups set-up to look into different wireless standards have a look at the Wikipedia page here

Here is a quick list:

The following IEEE Standards and task groups exist within the IEEE 802.11 working group:

IEEE 802.11 - The original 1 Mbit/s and 2 Mbit/s, 2.4 GHz RF and IR standard (1999)
IEEE 802.11a - 54 Mbit/s, 5 GHz standard (1999, shipping products in 2001)
IEEE 802.11b - Enhancements to 802.11 to support 5.5 and 11 Mbit/s (1999)
IEEE 802.11c - Bridge operation procedures; included in the IEEE 802.1D standard (2001)
IEEE 802.11d - International (country-to-country) roaming extensions (2001)
IEEE 802.11e - Enhancements: QoS, including packet bursting (2005)
IEEE 802.11F - Inter-Access Point Protocol (2003) Withdrawn 2005
IEEE 802.11g - 54 Mbit/s, 2.4 GHz standard (backwards compatible with b) (2003)
IEEE 802.11h - Spectrum Managed 802.11a (5 GHz) for European compatibility (2004)
IEEE 802.11i - Enhanced security (2004)
IEEE 802.11j - Extensions for Japan (2004)
IEEE 802.11k - Radio resource measurement enhancements
IEEE 802.11l - (reserved, typologically unsound)
IEEE 802.11m - Maintenance of the standard; odds and ends.
IEEE 802.11n - Higher throughput improvements
IEEE 802.11o - (reserved, typologically unsound)
IEEE 802.11p - WAVE - Wireless Access for the Vehicular Environment (such as ambulances and passenger cars)
IEEE 802.11q - (reserved, typologically unsound, can be confused with 802.1Q VLAN trunking)
IEEE 802.11r - Fast roaming
IEEE 802.11s - ESS Mesh Networking
IEEE 802.11T - Wireless Performance Prediction (WPP) - test methods and metrics
IEEE 802.11u - Interworking with non-802 networks (e.g., cellular)
IEEE 802.11v - Wireless network management
IEEE 802.11w - Protected Management Frames
IEEE 802.11x - reserved
IEEE 802.11y - Contention Based Protocol

Some Jargon and Acronyms Explained:

Your router broadcasts your wireless network using an SSID (Service Set IDentifier), a 32-character unique identifier attached to the header of each packet sent over a WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) that acts as a password when a mobile device tries to connect.

There are two main types of wireless network, the adhoc wireless network - a peer-to-peer network of client machines that uses the IBSS (Independent Basic Service Set Identifier) and Infrastructure Networks, based on access points using BSS or ESS ID instead.

WEP Encryption: The Wireless Equivalency Protocol was designed, as its name suggests, to make wireless networks as secure as cabling networks. It was the original standard for wireless network encryption. The flaws in this network were long ago breached and WEP is now just a way of delaying hackers breaking your network. Choose the highest level of encryption you can - ie. 128 or 256 bit if supported - as this will slow hackers down but you should be looking to move on to a newer encryption type.

WPA Wi-Fi Protected Access is an early version of the 802.11 security standard developed by the Wi-Fi alliance to replace WEP. TKIP (pronounced teekip) was developed for WPA as an improvement to WEP that could be rolled out as firware upgrades to existing hardware already in the market. WPA also provids support for Rijndael AES-CCMP which is the preferred 802.11i and WPA2 algorithm.

WPA2 is a Wi-Fi Alliance name for the final 802.11i standard. It uses AES-CCMP encryption as standard. Both WPA and WPA2 support EAP authentication with RADIUS servers and PSK (Pre-Shared Keys.)

LEAP - The Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol is based on 802.1x (which enables authentication from a central RADIUS or other server) minimizes risk by using WEP and key management systems. LEAP is not safe from hackers.

PEAP Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol, which allows a secure transport of data and encryption keys without needing a certificate server. This was developed by Cisco, RSA and Microsoft.

TKIP Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (Tee-Kip) is part of the 802.11i standard and implements per-packet key mixing with a key-keying system. A message integrity check is also performed avoiding the shortfalls of WEP.

RADIUS Remote Access Dial In User Server/Service which is a central authentication service used by many firewalls etc as a gatekeeper to check clients against a username and password. Windows 2000/3 IAS service can be configured as a RADIUS server for your router and can authenticate users for wireless or VPN access.



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