Wi-Fi group introduces a simpler way of securing wireless network
January 9, 2007
BY Bruce Meyerson Associated Press
NEW YORK -- The industry group that promotes Wi-Fi technology standards
is launching a simplified method for configuring the security settings
between a wireless router, laptops and other devices, addressing a
long-standing complaint that keeps many users from protecting their home
The Wi-Fi Alliance announced Monday that it has certified the first
products featuring the new specification, which is called Wi-Fi
By making the setup easier and reducing the number of steps, the
industry group hopes to encourage more consumers to turn on the security
features that already come standard with Wi-Fi equipment, but frequently
go unused due to confusion and complexities.
A survey last year by JupiterResearch found that 40 percent of consumers
had either not activated the security on their Wi-Fi networks or weren't
sure if they had, with more than half of them saying they thought their
Internet firewalls were sufficient and many others pointing to setup
An unprotected network can be vulnerable to hackers or, at the very
least, slowdowns in an Internet connection due to neighbors and
passersby "borrowing" the wireless signal. The industry alliance views
either scenario as a threat to the proliferation of the hugely popular
Wi-Fi standard into devices beyond laptop computers, from cell phones
and cameras to televisions and video game consoles.
The first generation of the new security specification supports two
modes of establishing an authorized connection between a Wi-Fi router
and a computer or other wireless device.
The first approach involves PINs, or personal identification numbers,
that would come with each device, with a computer serving as the control
center. When the PIN is entered on the computer, the device is allowed
on the network.
As an alternative, manufacturers can install buttons on their hardware.
To authorize a connection, the user would press the button on the router
first, and then the button on the device.
While devices that consumers already own will be compatible with new
products featuring Wi-Fi Protected Setup, the simplified security
configuration will only be possible if both are set to the new
specifications. Manufacturers of existing products may offer software
upgrades to add the easier setup capability, the Wi-Fi Alliance said.
By mid-year, the alliance also plans to introduce security setups that
use Near-Field Communication, an emerging technology where a short-range
radio tag embedded in a small token or card could be touched to a device
also containing a radio tag.
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