Study: Increased Use Of Wireless Networks Demands More Stringent Security Measures

The increase in mobile broadband services and the advent of new wireless technologies will increase the number of mobile workers who carry their business data on laptops and smart phones.

They often connect to the Internet through home and public wireless local area networks (WLANs), easily exposing their data to hackers. This spike in the number of WLANs and the advent of 802.11n specifications have hastened the development of wireless security technologies, since the ubiquity of WLAN has made wireless networks a soft target for a variety of attacks.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Innovations in Wireless Network Security, finds that enhanced security for wireless networks is vital to improve user experience.

"The popularity of wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) technology has been growing rapidly in the past few years, and it has become an indispensable part of mobile devices such as laptops, smart phones, mobile phones, and even portable media players," said Technical Insights Research Analyst Yin Fern Ko. "It is estimated that more than 90 percent of laptops in use today are equipped with Wi-Fi."

The rapid penetration of Wi-Fi and WLANs are apparent from the rise in number of wireless home networks, enterprise WLANs, and Wi-Fi 'hotspots'.

Despite the obvious need for an impenetrable security set-up, the lack of a clear and consistent wireless security policy, dependence on outdated protocols, and the difficulty in combating new types of attacks have challenged the implementation of security measures.

Hackers regularly release new types of attacks, such as evil twin attack, Wi-Fi phishing attack, and the dictionary attack on wireless networks, but the existing security strategies are largely reactive instead of being proactive. Hence, wireless network operators are often caught off guard and cannot detect and prevent these attacks. Additionally, the rapid advances in technology in the wireless domain hinder the development of wireless security protocols.

"A number of enterprises today fail to understand the importance of defining and enforcing a centrally managed wireless network access policy," said Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Achyuthanandan S. "They must be made to understand that it is the policy and not the technology itself that governs the security aspects of a wireless network."

In fact, a clear policy, along with basic security measures is, more often than not, sufficient for protecting wireless networks from the majority of issues.

Numerous enterprises continue to place faith in standard protocols such as wired equivalent privacy (WEP) despite their many vulnerabilities. To combat such user apathy and enhance the security in the wireless domain, network operators must improve the awareness of end users.

The enthusiastic adoption of wireless technologies and devices as well as the constant introduction of novel wireless technologies will keep security developers on their toes. While the onus is on them to roll out more stringent wireless security protocols, it is vital for the users to develop a better understanding of the potential threats in the wireless domain.

"Employees are considered the biggest threats to wireless security because not many are aware of what is at stake if the data residing in their smart phones or laptops is compromised or lost to an intruder," said Achyuthanandan. "They often skirt security rules, leaving their entire organization at the mercy of attackers; hence, it is important for the companies to accord higher priority to employee education."

Innovations in Wireless Network Security, a part of the Technical Insights subscription, provides a technology overview and outlook for wireless network security systems. The study focuses on the developments of wireless network security in the three major areas of security for WLANs, cellular networks, and endpoint devices. Further, this research service includes detailed technology analysis and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

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