Very simply, a WLAN is a wireless or radio frequency extension of a LAN. Some WLANs however, such as ad-hoc networks have no wired components. Generally these networks are based on the IEEE 802.11 protocol suite but can also consist of proprietary communication protocols.
YES! WLANs use much of the same technology (and even more in cases) that makes digital PCS phones secure. Spread spectrum and frequency hopping was originally developed for military use. The technology was designed to keep prying enemy ears from intercepting highly sensitive data. Both of these technologies are used in virtually all WLAN applications.
Besides making the radio link secure, the data is also encrypted for even more security if the radio link were ever ?tapped?. Different equipment manufacturers have implemented 40 bit, 64bit and 128 bit encryption. This initial attempt at security had some weaknesses, which were quickly identified.
New enhancements known as ?Wi-Fi Protected Access? (WPA) greatly improve the security of WLAN links. The two primary areas of improvements are in the areas of data encryption and user authentication.
The new encryption technique TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) addresses all the known vulnerabilities of the previous WEP encryption technique by ?wrapping? a very secure protective layer over the existing WEP packets.
WEP had virtually no user authentication mechanism in it?s initial deployment. WPA coupled with another authentication technique EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) provides the mechanism for true authentication services. This not only authenticates the user at login, but also protects the user from accidentally joining an un-wanted rogue network, which may steal network credentials.
Additional layers of security can be supported through virtual private networks (VPN), radius servers, and other techniques.
Basically all that is needed is a transmitting device, which connects to the Internet and operates in one of the unlicensed frequency bands, and a receiver (typically a PCMCIA card), which connects to your computer. But it?s not that easy?
There are many current products that have been designed with specific uses in mind. Some are very simple, and others very sophisticated. It?s sort of like asking what kind of computer does someone need? Well it really depends on what it?s being used for. Is it processing large amounts of data, maybe just used for surfing the web, possibly holding top-secret information! It?s obvious that the type of job dictates the type of equipment needed. Are you confused yet? Don?t worry! LBA has the expertise to help you decide what is the right system for your business application.
All products that conform to IEEE 802.11 standards maintain some interoperability. Products that carry the Wi-Fi certification are tested to verify a base level of interoperability.
The next release of LANwriter will provide this facility of connecting to an Active Directory server on the network for user management.