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Wireless Technology – What is wireless? What are the risks?

Wireless Technology is becoming more and more popular in today?s market. There are a few concerns to know before you setup a wireless network. What is it and how does it work? How is the technology being utilized? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Is this technology too new to be implemented for corporate use? Where is the technology going? What is the regulations governing this technology? Lastly, what are the health concerns if any?

The first wireless standard come out in the 1990s, called 802.11 and was established in 1997 by the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers or for short IEEE, and brought speeds of 1 to 2 megabits per second. The extensions from 802.11 are the 802.11a and 802.11b standards. (About Wireless Networks www.mcgill.ca)

There are a lot of benefits in having a wireless network, one of them is mobility wifi networks can provide users with the ability to go anywhere in there work environment and be online. Or not being confined in one spot all day long. Think of sending an important e-mail during a meeting when there are no computers around.

The disadvantages of having a wireless networks are that it is slower then being hard wired in. Being wired you can reach up to 100 mbps or higher. Rather on a wireless network depending on the connection you can reach up to 11 to 54 mbps. Everyday technology is getting faster and more reliable. As said earlier mbps means megabits per second. There now all over wireless networks is becoming more popular in universities, hotels, coffee shops, and other public areas.

How does all this work together? There are two components to a wireless communication. You need an access point or AP, for the main transmission point and you must have a Network Interface Card or NIC. Sometimes you don?t need an access point to achieve a wireless communication; all you need is two or more NIC?s. If configured right you can create an Ad-Hoc environment which is basically a peer to peer network. Normally when you are connected to an AP you share your internet connection, so it is like you really receive 1.1 mbps for each client.

The total cost is a something to consider when setting up this type of communication. First a wireless NIC can cost up to fifty too two hundred dollars based on the brand and the features. Cisco being the most expensive cause, it has a stronger signal.

How does wireless work? It makes it easier for computers to access resources without having to have to make holes in the walls, and either making time to make cables or go out and buy cabling. This makes the cost less then having wired networks. It uses radio frequencies to communicate with the access point. Depending on the standard the different frequencies and speed they will run. The way wireless networks transmit GHz or MHz. Hz meaning hertz is the rate of transmit. The G in GHz is means giga meaning the speed of transmit also M in MHz means mega and it is the speed of transmit. Configuring you computer to access a wireless network can be easy and it could be hard. All you really need to know if you have the right drivers installed know where are a hotspot, and the type of security the wireless network uses. It is easier to connect to an open network because there is no WEP password to know. Everything is wide open for everybody to use.

Security is a big issue in all types of networks, and there are a lot of security options you can choose from. One of the options is WEP which is a protocol that adds security to wireless LAN?s. It is an OSI data link layer or layer two. It can be turned on or off depending, how much security you need. The security theme WEP uses is called RC4, and it uses secret keys almost like very strong passwords. There are two types of WEP encryption one is 40 bit and the other is 128 bit. 40 bit encryption is when you use a key of length 40 bits and the 24 other bits are system generated. As technology grows 40 bit encryption becomes easier to decode. Today, businesses or the home user employ 128 bit encryption. This means having a key that is 104 bits long. Everyone that gets on the wireless connection will have to have that key to talk to each computer on the network.

The other type of security you can use came from Cisco. It is called LEAP, and provides a dynamic per user or per session encryption keys. This mean for every client that connects to the wireless LAN receives a different encryption key. LEAP is an 802.1x authentication type and uses a RADIUS server for logon requests. RADIUS is a server that is running ether active directory or some other type of authentication method. One plus in having a network with LEAP is that it is more secure then using WEP, because WEP uses a static key. Anyone can get the key and get online on your network but, LEAP uses a RADIUS server to accept connections meaning that the user needs a username and password. Also, with WEP you will need to configure each client to access the network, with LEAP all authentications are in a centralized place for ease of administration.

The disadvantages of using LEAP is that you need to make sure that everyone receives the same type of hardware, and the same type of client. It can be harder to setup because you need to configure the access point to talk to the RADIUS server. Also, on the server side you will need some type of database then you can store who can get online. This makes WEP easier to setup but, harder for administration, in a large environment.

In conclusion, when before setting up a wireless network you should read up on how to set it up and how you want the security to be. If you run an open network you beware that anyone can access your network. When running a wireless network considers how many people needs to access the network, and the big thing to remember is security. What option are you going to choose, WEP either 128 bit or 64 bit. Or you can run a RADIUS server to handle all connections which is the ultimate defense.

Works Cited

Brain Marshall, ?How WiFi Works? http://computer.howstuffworks.com,
Retrieved, 2004 16 Nov. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/
wireless-network.htm/printable>

Cisco Systems, Inc; ?CISCO AIRONET 1200 SERIES LEAP and
RADIUS Server?, www.cisco.com, Retrieved, 2004 16 Nov.
<http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/wireless/ps430
/products_tech_note09186a008019fea2.shtml>

Cisco Systems, Inc; ?WIRELESS LAN SECURITY SOLUTION?,
www.cisco.com, Retrieved, 2004 16 Nov.
<http://www.cisco.com/en/US/netsol/ns339/ns395/ns176/ns178
/netqa0900aecd801764f1.html>

McGill University, ?About Wireless Networks?,
http://www.mcgill.ca; Last modified: 2004 23 Jun, Retrieved 2004 16
Nov.

Mitchell Bradley, ?WEP ? Wired Equivalent Privacy?,
http://compnetworking.about.com, Retrieved 2004 16 Nov;
NETGEAR, ?What are Benefits of a Wireless Network??,
http://kbserver.netgear.com, Retrieved 2004 16 Nov,

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