Fighting the good fight
Wireless local area network, or WLAN, adoption in the enterprise has reached mass-market status, as the technology offers workers more options — hence, greater flexibility — regarding how they achieve network connectivity. But security remains one of the biggest barriers standing in the way of even wider adoption, as noted in a recent report published by the Yankee Group.
“Businesses must overcome many hurdles as they enable more of their workforce to go mobile, including security, policy, management, resource allocation and compliance regulations,” said Sandra Palumbo, program manager with the Yankee Group, in the research note. “These challenges have led many enterprises to an ad-hoc approach to mobility that opens them up to many security threats not addressed via traditional enterprise security architectures.”
Case in point: One major security threat stems from rogue, or unauthorized, access points (APs) placed on the network by legitimate employees, usually when they bring their own devices — such as non-company-issued laptops or personal digital assistants purchased through a retail outlet — into the corporate campus as they seek the benefits of mobile connectivity. The unwelcome by-product of such activity is that these employees unwittingly make the enterprise’s WLAN traffic vulnerable to interception, in the process exposing the organization’s confidential data and critical assets — including intellectual property — to the outside world.
To further assist enterprises as they combat this problem, wireless intrusion detection/prevention vendor Network Chemistry recently added GAPS capability to its RFprotect Mobile analysis tool, which improves the ability of enterprises and government organizations with large campuses to track down and remove unauthorized devices — both inside and outside campus buildings — tapping into their Wig-Fib networks.
“The demand came from large government organizations that have multiple buildings and extensive sites they are trying to cover, such as military bases and large manufacturing facilities,” said Joel Riciputi, director of product marketing with Network Chemistry.
The RFprotect Mobile solution consists of a wireless-enabled laptop, an off-the-shelf wireless card that supports 802.11 a/b/g, and mapping software — dubbed QuickLocate — that identifies the access points on a wireless campus and then pinpoints the location of unauthorized devices. It emits a high-pitch sound, which beeps at a higher pitch as the user approaches a rouge device.
“IT managers can now put some teeth into their policies,” Riciputi said.
The addition of the GAPS capability improves the solution’s ability to identify unauthorized APs that reside outside campus buildings. For instance, IT managers can drive around a large corporate campus or military base in a golf cart or other small vehicle with a laptop loaded with the RFprotect Mobile solution to manage and view the entity’s entire wireless network topography.
The GAPS-enabled version is currently available and costs $4000, which includes the laptop, wireless card and software programs.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Network Chemistry is best known for its RFprotect Distributed product, which is a traditional server-plus-sensors solution sold by a number of WLAN infrastructure vendors on an OEM basis. It also is sold under the Network Chemistry brand. Since the launch of Distributed in 2003, Network Chemistry has added three other product lines, namely Mobile, introduced in 2004, RFprotect Endpoint in 2005 and, at the beginning of this year, Network Chemistry Scanner.
Endpoint is a connection policy enforcement tool designed to offer complete endpoint protection. For instance, should an employee access the corporate network via a Wig-Fib link from a coffee shop, it can force the link to go through a VPN.Scanner is a device that sits on a wired network and, without the need for wireless sensors, discovers any APs in its environment.