Small businesses and telecommuters at home should be able to work more securely over Wi-Fi networks with the availability of the first products that have been certified under the Wi-Fi Alliance's Protected Setup program, designed to make the setup process easier and quicker.

Although the use of Wi-Fi networks has exploded in recent years, the wireless connectivity solution has been hampered by security concerns. Since March 2006, all certified Wi-Fi products have been required to include the WPA and WPA-2 security standards used by the federal government, but the eight-step setup process often proved too complex for many home and small-business users, said Linda Hanley, senior director of marketing for the Wi-Fi Alliance.

In an effort to simplify the security setup process, the Wi-Fi Alliance established Protected Setup, a program that standardized security setup into four steps — a process simple enough that home and small-business users will be able to leverage the top levels of security available in current Wi-Fi products.

Large enterprises likely will continue to use their own setup processes, which incorporate more complex functionality, although the Wi-Fi Alliance hopes to simplify enterprise security setup in the future, Hanley said. “[Protected Setup] is really for those who don't have their own IT department,” she said.