Securing your Mixed Network

All wireless networks, whether they are located in a home or corporate setting, implement the same technology - 802.11. Developed by members of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), 802.11 is a quickly evolving class of specifications for WLANs (wireless local area networks). The difference in wireless environments relates to how the technology is implemented. For instance, it's rare to find a small wireless router in a corporate setting. First of all, this type of router doesn't have nearly enough power to support the range of a large enterprise. A single corporation may occupy more than one building at times. This is already an additional layer of complexity as a home user typically only has one wireless router to manage while a corporation may have dozens.

The Prominence of Mixed Networks

Many corporations use both a wireless and wired network, meaning they have a number of devices and security issues as well. Successfully deploying a wireless network into an existing wired network can be a grueling task. Because complexity and security often equal trouble, it is important to implement some type of central management system in order to maintain and secure the mixed network.

More corporate users are learning that TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) is an effective way to harden a wireless network. TKIP is the driving technology behind WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), an encryption scheme that has evolved from the vulnerability of WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy). TKIP offers better security with new encryption algorithms and switching of the encryption key itself, a mechanism that makes it much harder for a hacker to intercept the right one. If a hacker is able to get a hold of the key, they will have a difficult time interpreting the data as it is also encrypted. This is a very reliable solution for any corporate wireless network. While this system has many benefits, it isn't the easiest to implement as not all wireless cards or routers support TKIP.

Creating a Security Strategy for a Mixed Network

If you are thinking of incorporating wireless technology into an existing wired network, it is important to sit down and develop a strategy. Examine the current infrastructure and determine what your hardware offers in the way of wireless compatibility. A good move would be to stay with the same hardware vendor to enable a more seamless integration. A centralized monitoring application would also be a good idea, as this will allow you to manage all the facets of your mixed network from one location. If at all possible, you can strengthen the core of your mixed network by implementing several layers of defense such as WEP, TKIP and VPNs (virtual private networks).

System administrators in the corporate environment generally have some tough decisions to make as one false move could negatively impact the work network. You will find that taking the time to study the existing infrastructure of your network will assist in hashing out performance and security issues before making the big move to merge settings. Fortunately, there are several products on the market that will minimize these tasks and help with the successful planning of securing your mixed network.

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