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Security provider offers Wi-Fi authentication for SMBs

Wireless Security Corp. is offering a new service that lets SMBs outsource Wi-Fi security and authentication, helping companies with the difficult and time-consuming task of managing wireless security.

A new security outsourcing service for wireless LANs may help IT workers at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) spend less time deploying and managing wireless systems.

Wireless Security Corp., a Palo Alto, Calif.-based security provider, recently announced the availability of its outsourced Wi-Fi security service: WSC Guard. The outsourced service is designed to help businesses deploy Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), as well as identify network intruders and rogue access points. The service also authenticates users from its network operations center.

"Small and medium [sized] businesses often do not have the expertise to deploy wireless security," said Phil Marson, Wireless Security Corp.'s vice president of sales. This product is designed to do the work for them, he said.

The service comes with software that makes it easier for businesses to turn on WPA, which typically requires some form of authentication. For those firms that do not yet have an authentication system, WCS plans to take the job off their hands by hosting an authentication service for them. It conforms to the 802.1x standard and uses Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP) for authentication.

WSC also monitors a businesses' wireless network for intrusion attempts and can identify a brute force attack, said Marson.

The service allows a business to set up guest accounts, allowing visitors to use the wireless network without jeopardizing passwords or network security. With WSC's service, administrators can set up strict guidelines for guests that determine the amount of time someone can be on the network and what resources they can and cannot access.

The service is compatible with a broad range of hardware from vendors that include Cisco Systems Inc., Proxim Corp., Dell Inc., Buffalo Technologies Inc. and Intel Corp.'s Centrino-based products.

Ever since the inadequacies of the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) wireless security protocol were publicized last year, wireless LAN security has been a hot market, and there are dozens of vendors now in the market, said Chris Neal, an analyst with Sage Research. But he said Wireless Security Corp. is one of the first to offer security as a service rather than a product.

It may be a smart move. While large businesses generally do not want to outsource security, many small and medium-sized organizations simply do not have the specialized staff necessary to manage complex wireless LAN security on their own, he said. They are looking for ways to simplify secure wireless deployments.

Additionally, Neal said developing an authentication system can be a complex process for small businesses, one they might like to outsource.

"There is definitely a need for the service," Neal said. "If they execute properly, it could work."

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