Wi-Fi body to simplify security setup

The group that certifies Wi-Fi products aims to make more wireless LANs secure by taking some of the work out of locking them down.

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced last month at the International Consumer Electronics Show its WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) specification, which lays out an easier process for setting up a secure wireless LAN. The group will also reveal the first devices certified under WPS, though it will take a few more months for consumer products to reach store shelves.

Wi-Fi security has greatly improved since home users first embraced wireless LANs a few years ago, but most consumers still don’t use the available tools because they are too hard to set up, said Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Wireless LAN security systems, including the current WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) standard, encrypt traffic and require user authentication to get on the network. Traditionally, when consumers set up new wireless LANs, they have to set a network name and a “pass phrase” for the access point, then select the name and enter the pass phrase on every new device as they add it to the network.

With WPS, the access point automatically generates a network name. Consumers can add clients to the secure network by either entering a PIN (personal identification number) of four or eight digits or pushing special buttons built in to the access point and client.

The new standard will help but won’t make all new LANs secure, said Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney.

“A lot of consumers will just leave the security off like they do today, but if you want security, this is a lot easier than the current process,” Dulaney said.

The first certified products will largely be reference designs for manufacturers, Hanzlik said. The first wave of consumer products, carrying a special logo in addition to the standard Wi-Fi insignia, will probably hit the market around June, he said.

QuickLink: 072214

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