Businesses and wireless networks

Managing networks in today’s business landscape is increasingly challenging.  Keeping up with routers, switches, and firewalls, as well as the firmware and operating system upgrades can keep a system administrator busy.  Most organization’s today offer wireless access to employees, and some provide a guest network as well.  Wireless networks are viewed as a valuable asset because it allows for increased mobility for employees, such as being able to bring a laptop to a conference room and still access a presentation stored on a network file share.

Introducing wireless networks into the overall network architecture adds an additional point of vulnerability since physically connecting to a port is not necessary.  Ensuring adequate security exists is the first step in preventing your organization’s wireless network from being compromised.  Unlike your home network, the organization’s network has access to valuable business information such as financial forecasts, intellectual property, and plans for future product development.  There are many considerations to evaluate when deploying an enterprise wireless network.  Questions such as how many people will be on the network, how will I be able to audit user’s behaviors, and how will I control device access are just a few.

To protect your business WiFi, it is important that you don’t simply use a pre-shared key (PSK) like you would on a home router.  An organization should use Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) to protect the wireless network.  Geier (2010) explained that EAP is preferred for business because it can provide individualized and centralized authentication.  Implementation of EAP provides a means of auditing which users are connecting to the WiFi.  Providing this level of granularity can help in establishing nonrepudiation (preventing an individual from denying they conducted the action).  Another benefit of EAP is the easy integration with Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS).  Further, implementation of EAP allows for the users to not interact directly with the encryption keys because they are created after user authentication.

Protecting wireless networks is a challenging task.  Business wireless networks have different security needs than home wireless networks.  Implementing EAP provides a way of protecting a business network by authentication each individual user using separate credentials.  When deploying a business wireless network, consider using technology that provides nonrepudiation and minimizes the chance of one set of credentials compromising the entire network.

Reference

Geier, E. (2010, April 9). Moving to WPA/WPA2-Enterprise Wi-Fi Encryption. Retrieved from http://www.ciscopress.com/articles/article.asp?p=1576225

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