Network Security: Wired and Wireless

A business needs to be able to safely access the internet, while at the same time allow authorized users access to company data. Firewalls, anti-virus software, email filters and the like can be used to reduce the introduction of malicious software and unauthorized access from outside and inside the company. One of the most important decisions for any company is the type of network structure to use, wired or wireless. Cost, reliability and security top the list of considerations. Traditionally, wired networks have been deemed more secure than wireless configurations. This view is rapidly becoming obsolete with the development and implementation of better authentication and encryption standards for wireless technology.

Both the wired and wireless options have the same goals: ensure that information confidentiality and integrity is maintained, allow only authorized access and to detect and prevent intrusions. The original standard for wireless networking was flawed, giving rise to the view that the technology was not a safe option. Prior to 2002, the standard adopted for wireless LANs by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) was WEP - Wired Equivalent Privacy. This standard was found to be inadequate for meeting necessary security requirements. With WEP, data is protected using RC4 encryption; user authentication determined by a pre-shared key. The key could be cracked, allowing data to be modified and otherwise compromised. These issues were addressed by the IEEE. In 2002, the WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) was introduced, and in 2004 the IEEE adopted WPA2 as the new standard. WPA2 uses the AES encryption algorithm. AES is considered extremely secure and is approved for military use. Additionally, two methods for authentication are employed including RADIUS, a security option used in wired networks. WPA2 is the basis for setting up a secure wireless LAN.

Most companies do not implement wired-only or wireless-only networks. A combination of both strategies comprise a typical network. The wireless option is more popular than ever. Hand-held scanners, price-checkers, as well as devices recently available as wireless - such as printers, are standard equipment. While no network can have absolute security, properly implement wireless segments of a network can be just as secure as the wired segment.

Is your wireless equipment up-to-date? Contact STCR at (607) 757-0181 for information on access points, hand-scanners and more.