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AirMagnet upgrade helps close Centrino's back door

The latest wireless LAN security and performance management software from AirMagnet can help admins track down Centrino notebooks that may be vulnerable to rogue access points.

Wireless LAN management specialist AirMagnet Inc. today announced a software upgrade that will enable customers to keep closer tabs on notebooks that utilize Intel Corp.'s Centrino wireless technology.

More broadly, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AirMagnet's Mobile 3.0 software suite enables administrators to analyze the security and health of their wireless LANs by identifying and tracking devices, pinpointing performance and security problems, and offering suggestions for solving them.

AirMagnet's Mobile 3.0 suite features two applications. The AirMagnet Laptop Trio is designed for use with notebook computers. AirMagnet Handheld is a simplified version that runs on Pocket PC-based mobile devices. The software enables admins to use a PDA like a compass to track down the source of a problem.

The software can be configured to detect up to 90 different types of security and performance problems, which is nearly two dozen more than the previous version could, said Rich Mironov, AirMagnet's vice president of marketing.

One of those new alerts involves Centrino-based notebooks. Mironov said most Centrino products are shipped with their wireless capabilities enabled by default, meaning that whenever they are turned on, they search for a wireless access point with which to connect. Even if they detect a rogue access point, those notebooks may automatically establish a connection, potentially opening the door for a hacker.

Mironov said Mobile 3.0 prevents that by actively monitoring wireless device connection attempts and alerting admins to events that the tool has been preprogrammed to identify as problems, such as Centrino machines that are continuously searching for a wireless connection.

Other new features in version 3 include support for tri-mode devices using 802.11a/b/g combination chips, a signal quality tool that spots environmental issues like multi-path interference and malfunctioning access points, and the ability to identify multiple service set identifiers (SSIDs) within a single access point, recognizing users' various access privileges.

Russ Craig, a research director with Boston-based Aberdeen Group, said the product has rich functionality that gives wireless LAN managers more administrative capabilities than they would normally have. He said the product is ideal for enterprises looking for more advanced WLAN management tools.

Craig said the company, which currently has 1,500 customers, was the first to offer portable wireless LAN monitoring tools.

"It's not for the single-location coffee shop," noted Mironov, adding that the company's customers typically have a minimum of a half-dozen access points.

The company also offers an optional add-on called AirMagnet Reporter, which aggregates information from the other AirMagnet products to create different types of WLAN management reports.

AirMagnet Laptop Trio is priced at just under $3,500, AirMagnet Handheld 3.0 is listed at $2,995, and AirMagnet Reporter costs $1,495.


Read how you can spot WLAN intrusions.

Learn more about service set identifiers in our mobile computing glossary.

Read more stories by News Editor Eric B. Parizo.

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