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    Wireless Network Security:
    Protecting Computers From The Inside Out

    Bardon Data Systems

    Many industry experts predict that wireless networks will be the next major area of explosive growth in IT. They point to indicators such as the surprising early success of Tablet PCs, the consistent growth in 802.11 based wireless equipment sales, and, of course, Intel's heavy investment in its next generation wireless-enabled Centrino processor. The timing may finally be right for wireless in the enterprise.

    A significant barrier to the success of wireless networks within the enterprise has been the formidable security issues left open by the various wireless technologies and standards. By definition, wireless devices are inherently more vulnerable to unauthorized outsiders intercepting and intruding upon the data stream. These vulnerabilities have prompted wireless device manufacturers to incorporate increasingly sophisticated security measures to protect the systems from an attack from outside the network, such as an unauthorized logon from an unguarded "hot spot." As these issues are addressed, wireless networks will attain a level of security comparable to wired networks, thus addressing attacks from the outside.

    However, the basic nature of wireless networks also makes them highly vulnerable to security infractions from the inside out. In other words, wireless networks are highly vulnerable to security infractions resulting from the usage of the wireless computer itself in an unauthorized manner.

    By definition, the largest percentage of wireless network computers will be mobile devices such as Tablet PCs and laptops. They will be adopted for their convenience and ease of use. Because they can, users will take these devices to remote meetings, coffee shops, and airports. Inevitably, users will accidentally leave their wireless computers in restaurants, forget them in rental cars, or have them stolen in a hotel. As wireless networks proliferate, the percentage of mobile devices compromised due to theft or loss will skyrocket.

    When a wireless computer falls into the wrong hands, it is potentially a much greater disaster than might occur if the same computer lacked wireless capabilities. That one computer could easily provide unauthorized access to the entire wireless network and, through the network, perhaps to much more.

    Bardon's products add a critical layer of security and protection to wireless computers. System administrators can (and should) set an initial level of defense by preventing mobile systems from being booted using a floppy disk, CD-ROM, or external device. This prevents the simplest attack a thief might use to access the computer.

    In addition to secured logons for all versions of Windows, Bardon's products can make confidential files, folders, and programs completely invisible to unauthorized users. Consider a laptop that was stolen to gain access to the files it contains. The perpetrator who searches the stolen computer for important data will not find the target files; they are invisible. They simply are not there. Unlike an encrypted file, there is no visible target on which hacking can be attempted. Since any encryption scheme can be broken, often quite quickly, this offers a significant advantage.

    Further, if the thief does manage to access the computer, Bardon's management software will immediately alert the system administrator to the unauthorized use of the computer. The system administrator can then render the machine useless to the thief. The administrator can immediately disable or delete any programs, files, or folders on the stolen computer, or even logoff or shut down the machine. Bardon's ongoing audit trail log will provide the administrator with a detailed description of everything the thief did or attempted to do on the stolen computer. This can even include keystroke logging of every keystroke entered by the unauthorized user.

    In the real world, wireless systems cannot always provide 24x7 connectivity. But computer security must continue even when the network is unavailable. For this reason, Bardon's products allow the administrator to equip mobile computers with predetermined security configurations which will oversee and control the computer when it cannot connect to the network. These configurations can include such things as limiting access to sensitive resources, time limits on programs, and restrictions on Internet access.

    The increasing trend of mobility and wireless connectivity will ultimately encompass most enterprises. As this occurs, Bardon software products can help to ensure that these systems will remain secure from the inside out.